Evan Lysacek gets the question so often he knows when it's coming. When the U.S. men's champion meets someone new, the first thing they want to know is: Can you do a quad?
The answer is yes. The quadruple toe loop, to be specific, a jump during which Lysacek rotates four times in the air before landing. He will attempt it in today's men's short program at the U.S. championships and again in Sunday's free skate, and he believes it could hold the key to two pursuits: winning the tile, and reviving the flagging interest in U.S. figure skating.
"I think it's important," Lysacek said of the quad, which separates the world's best male skaters from the rest of the pack. "It's good for me to keep challenging myself. I can't hold back on anything, and taking chances is what sports are about.
"I think we lost our big brand with the 6.0 [scoring system]. That was what everyone knew, whether they had ever watched skating or not. It's tough to rope people in when you don't have a brand -- and I think the brand now is the quad. Even when people see me on the street, all they know is the quad. So I think it's important for us to represent that."
The quad is not the only stretch Lysacek is making this year. He debuted two new programs in the same season for the first time in five years, including a dramatic free skate to "Tosca" selections. That program drew a standing ovation at Skate America and helped Lysacek earn silver medals at two Grand Prix events and bronze in his first Grand Prix final.
After moving steadily up the ranks, he enters his eighth nationals as the defending champion. That has made it "a million times" harder, he said, to focus on the process rather than the results, giving him another challenge.
"I look at it more as a confidence boost, knowing 'I can do this, I did it last year,'" said Lysacek, who recently altered his spins to make them higher-scoring. "Not like, 'I have to do this.' All I can control is attacking every element."