Evan Lysacek, the 2010 men's Olympic figure skating champion, announced Tuesday he will not return from a torn labrum to compete in the 2014 Sochi Games. Though he said he is not retiring, Lysacek's absence will leave a major hole in the U.S. figure skating team.
He is the most recognizable men's figure skater and someone around whom NBC could build a story. Even healthy, however, it was not clear how competitive he would have been as he tried to match American Dick Button who won back to back Olympics in 1948 and 1952.
"This has been my entire life, training and representing my country," Lysacek told The Associated Press, pausing to fight back tears. "So it's just kind of difficult. As much as I knew it could go either way, I never accepted it wouldn't. I always thought it would work out. I was crushed. I am crushed."
Lysacek, who hasn't competed since Vancouver, is scheduled to hold a teleconference with news media later Tuesday.
Lysacek, 28, is among the most recognizable and popular male winter Olympians. His announcement comes at a time when NBC is facing uncertainty with another bankable star, injured skier Lindsey Vonn.
As for USA men's figure skating hopes, the chances for a medal were slim at best before this, and possibly nonexistent now. In terms of marketability, the team had already lost 2008 world bronze medalist Johnny Weir, who retired in October.
Jeremy Abbott competed with Lysacek and Weir in Vancouver, but has been plagued by inconsistency and a back injury. He hasn't won an international event since 2011.
Max Aaron is the defending national champion and has the quadruple jump that will be needed to compete in Sochi. Ross Miner took second in the U.S. and also has a quad. However, both are inexperienced, and will have a hard time against a strong field. In Sochi, skaters like Canada's Patrick Chan, the defending world champion, Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, the bronze medalist in Vancouver and Yuzuru Hanyu, who won the Grand Prix Final this past weekend, will offer programs that are both difficult and artistic.
The women's figure skating team is hardly guaranteed a medal, either. Ashley Wagner is likely the best hope, and realistically is competing for bronze at best.
The only clear USA gold medal favorites are the ice dancing team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White.