It is hard to feel too sorry for an Olympic gold medalist with a fondness for fast cars and private jets, but Evan Lysacek might go down as the unluckiest Olympic champion from Vancouver 2010.
Lysacek took the men's figure skating gold at the last Winter Olympics and announced on Tuesday that the slow recovery from a hip injury would prevent him from making a title defense in Sochi next February.
While the 28-year-old from Naperville, Ill., made some rudimentary noises about a future comeback, it is, in all probability, the end of the road for an athlete who didn't quite get the attention his achievements deserved.
Even his greatest moment was somewhat tainted.
Lysacek's routine at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver was perfectly clean and technically outstanding, but it missed an explosive, high-risk quad jump, primarily because he did not trust his gimpy left foot. Eventual silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko attempted and landed the quad, but his long program had enough kinks in the rest of his performance to drop him below Lysacek in the judges' eyes and give the American gold.
The outcome sparked outrage in certain quarters. Also, Plushenko gracelessly sniped that Lysacek was not a "true champion" and his coach called the judges' scoring "nonsense."
A naturally more reserved character, Lysacek was too polite to engage in the verbal warfare. He was content to head home with his glittering piece of hardware and start test-driving Aston Martins.
Lysacek was the first American male to win Olympic gold since Brian Boitano in 1988, but he didn't even receive as many headlines as one of his compatriots who finished out of the medals. Johnny Weir placed sixth in Vancouver, but his flamboyant style, outrageous outfits and controversial comments thrust him firmly into the center of the spotlight.
For Lysacek, the time since the Vancouver Games has found him in an odd kind of limbo. First, there was the virtually obligatory reality television stint, a second-place turn on "Dancing With The Stars." Then a financial dispute with U.S. Figure Skating followed and took the sting out of his return to the ice.
Former figure skaters will tell you that the four years in between Olympics can creep up on you with surprising speed, and that seemed to be the case for Lysacek. A hip injury and the resulting layoff meant he began to drop off the radar, except for repeated rumors of a relationship with 64-year-old fashion designer Vera Wang that kept the tabloids and gossip sites salivating for months.
In the end, the pain in his hip became too much to bear.
"A lot of what played into that decision was that my doctor warned me that if I continued to train with 100 percent certainty, the injury would get worse, the pain would get worse every single day and I could be doing permanent and severe damage," Lysacek told Matt Lauer on "The Today Show."
Lysacek's absence from Sochi, combined with Weir swapping his skates for the commentary booth, leaves the yet-to-be-decided U.S. men's contingent without any real star power.
Maybe a new hero will emerge, but at this stage it seems unlikely that Sochi will see an American capable of matching the feats of Lysacek, who may not have not have been the most spectacular of Olympic champions but showed a poise and dignity that will be missed.