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Naperville readying for Lysacek's triumphant return
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff

Evan Lysacek of the United States reacts after his performance in the men's free program figure skating competition Thursday. Naperville is getting ready to welcome Lysacek home after winning the gold medal in figure skating.


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Published: 2/20/2010 12:01 AM | Updated: 2/20/2010 12:16 AM

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When men's figure skating Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek returns home to Naperville, he will be feted like a conquering hero.

"We want to do a day - an Evan Lysacek Day - in Naperville where he's recognized and given a key to the city because he's made us so darn proud," said Mayor George Pradel said Friday, a day after the native son secured gold in Vancouver. "When we know when he's coming back in, we'll give him a police and fire escort to wherever he's going."

Neuqua Valley High School Principal Bob McBride plans to have the 2003 graduate recognized at the school as well when he reappears in Naperville.

"We know the city will be doing something, but hopefully we can get him back in the building to celebrate his accomplishment here," McBride said.

Several of Lysacek's former teachers are Neuqua watched their former student win his medal Thursday, even though they had to stay up late on a school night to do so. The final results weren't announced until after 11 p.m.

"I was going to go to bed after he skated and just find out how he did when I woke up in the morning, but once I got to bed I just couldn't resist, I had to see it," said Inna Kagan, who taught social studies to a sophomore and junior Lysacek. "The moment it was over though, I went right to sleep."

Neuqua Assistant Principal Lance Fuhrer taught world history to an unassuming freshman who would later achieve Olympic glory. He said Lysacek valued the education he was receiving.

"One of the special things about Evan was that he was the only skater ranked in the top 10 who was still attending regular school," Fuhrer said.

But it wasn't the same high school experience most teenagers had.

"He would miss at least one week out of every month for skating," Fuhrer said. "But he kept up with his studies. One time it just so happened the week we were all in class discussing Michelangelo's David, he was actually in Florence and went to see the sculpture while we were all unfortunately looking at pictures. The most he ever probably spoke in class was when he got back from that trip and was peppered with questions about David."

One of Lysacek's former skating coaches also praised her former pupil's educational discipline on the ice. Debbie Stoery coached Lysacek for nearly four years when he was a teenager. She said the hard work Lysacek is known for paid off Thursday. She took pride in knowing she had played a part in helping him recognize his goal.

"The rewarding thing for me is to see the development of a skater from the beginning to the end," she said. "Sometimes teaching someone a single axel (jump) is more rewarding than teaching a triple axel."

Jan Serafine was one of the few locals besides Lysacek's family on hand in Vancouver to congratulate the skater after his victory. As president of the DuPage Figure Skating Club, she has known Lysacek and his family for more than a decade.

"I wasn't as sure as some after his skate," Serafine admitted. "Dick Button called me on my cell after his routine and said, 'Your boy did it.' I didn't know if would be enough, but what a skate it was."