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Lysacek's drive to succeed was obvious from childhood
By Melissa Jenco | Daily Herald Staff

Evan Lysacek started skating after receiving skates from his grandmother as a Christmas gift when he was 8. He won his first national competition at age 10.

 

Daily Herald file photo

Those who coached Evan Lysacek as a youngster say he was driven and a perfectionist right from the start.

 

Courtesy Lynn Plage Communications.

By age 14, Evan Lysacek already had won juvenile, novice and junior national championships.

 

Photo by Paul Harvath courtesy of Lynn Plage Communications

Candy Burek Brown.

 

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Debbie Stoery

 

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Published: 3/25/2010 12:04 PM | Updated: 3/25/2010 12:20 PM

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Hardworking. Passionate. Driven.

The same words spill out in just about every conversation with people who knew Evan Lysacek as he was growing up in Naperville.

Few are surprised the 24-year-old now has an Olympic gold medal to his name.

"His striving for excellence and perfection and really maximizing every ounce of potential he had - was really a trait from the start," Lysacek's former coach, Candy Brown Burek, said.

Brown Burek started coaching Evan when he was 9 and said he insisted on improving at every practice.

He grew into a skater, she said, who is fast, musical and an excellent jumper with a good body line.

She and Debbie Stoery, who coached Lysacek in his early teens, also attribute some of his success to his intelligence and sense of humor.

"Whatever he would approach he approaches from a very thorough and focused manner," Stoery said.

Family also plays a large role in Lysacek's life. In addition to the support he receives from his parents and sisters, he has never forgotten his grandmother, who gave him his first pair of skates for Christmas.

Stoery was coaching Lysacek when his grandmother died and saw how it affected his family. From then on, she said, when they traveled for competitions Evan would always take time from sightseeing to find a chapel where he could light a candle in his grandmother's memory.

Off the ice, Lysacek made an impression on his teachers at Neuqua Valley High School.

Inna Kagan, who taught Evan U.S. history and sociology, remembers his neat handwriting and the effort he put toward his schoolwork - despite having to miss classes for competitions. She laughs as she remembers him telling her she would be his "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" phone-a-friend if he ever got on the show.

"He was a sweet kid and I always liked him," Kagan said. "If he went on trips a lot of times he would bring back trinkets for the teachers."

Karyl Grecu, who taught Evan in her advertising class, remembers him as respectful and mature

"He fit in with all the other kids so when he skated, he skated but when he was in class he was just like any other kid," Grecu said.

Both teachers said they will be excited to see their former pupil when he visits his alma mater Friday.

"It's going to be so weird because I have a hard time reconciling this little sophomore boy I had in my class with this big tall man I keep seeing on TV," Kagan said.

Grecu said he is a role model for students at Neuqua.

"It's going to be very motivating for the kids to see because they all now know he won the gold," she said. "He can motivate them and show how hard he worked."