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When Evan Lysacek attends the Disney On Ice Princess Wishes opening night gala to benefit Figure Skating In Harlem held Friday at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, memories rush back.

The Dancing With The Stars runner-up, 25, remembers hitting a Stars On Ice show in his native Chicago, and becoming inspired to pursue the sport.

“I actually decided I wanted to be an Olympian first,” he tells me before hitting a buffet that includes cheeseburgers, French fries, Caesar salad and chocolate chip cookies. “I remember when I was six years old, I watched Michael Jordan win the 1992 Olympics. It was the summer Olympics in Barcelona. The second gold medal was the captain of the U.S. men’s team, and I said ‘I want to be at the Olympics.’ A couple years later, skating became my vehicle. I started skating when I was 8, almost 9. When I graduated from high school in 2003, that’s when I decided I wanted to train and make the Olympics.”

Keeping up wasn’t always easy.

“You have to be in love with what you’re doing,” he says. “Sports are hard. There are good days, and there are difficult days once you reach an elite level. But even at a lower level, there are hard days where you fall down and it hurts badly. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll get through the tough days. The good days are easier to get through because you’re happy to be doing something you love.”

He adds, “Later in my career, I had disappointing results or I had difficulty learning a specific element and felt like maybe this was never going to happen for me. And then I changed all of my training, and it became more of an obsession for me. I look back now and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I became very regimented in my life, and that’s what works for me. That’s a key to success.”

How did he update his regimen?

“I added hours to my training. I started training 8-10 hours a day instead of five or six. I ate the same food at the same time every single day. I stressed my sleep habits. I never went out, I didn’t want to be sick. I made sure I logged enough hours running outside to get vitamin D. It was about routine. I’m a creature of habit, so I found pleasure in that. But as an individual, I had to take it to the point of obsession. It became my obsession.”

Because it’s frigid outside, I’m hoping Evan can share a tip for keeping warm.

“I keep warm inside until the moment I have to go take my coat off and do my routine outside,” he tells me. “Keeping your heart rate up is important. If you’re working out outside, keep warm before you even go out so that your body temperature is high.”

Wait, no special assistance like those sticky Grabber Warmers?

“I don’t use them. It’s all natural. Natural heat, that’s right.”

Catch Evan in Stars On Ice beginning February 18, and look out for Disney On Ice Princess Wishes when it hits your city.
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