Skater home for Evan Lysacek Day

March 26, 2010 4:27:58 PM PDT
Friday is Evan Lysacek Day in Naperville, which kicked off with a rally at the Olympic gold medalist's alma mater.

The Olympic gold medalist in men's figure skating at the 2010 Games in Vancouver graduated from Nequa Valley in 2003.

Lysacek got his chance Friday to return home triumphant and to talk to residents and celebrate the town's support for him, as well as to get a key to the city.

Naperville's The skater's proud parents looked on.

"It's been a long journey and it hasn't been without a lot of help and a lot of friends, and it's great today to bring it all home," said Donald Lysacek, Evan's father.

Lysacek also was awarded a commemorative Olympic ring.

"This is a person who has come back to Naperville, an icon. It's a person they really reach out to," said Naperville Mayor George Pradel.

Lysacek was the first American to win the gold medal in men's figure skating since 1988. Current students at Nequa Valley, faculty and staff gave him the school's first-ever Distinguished Alumni Award. The 24-year-old said he was excited about returning to his roots.

"It's such an honor to be back," he said. "I'm excited to be here. I've been waiting to get back home and celebrate with the community that's backed me and been so instrumental in my development as a person, as an athlete and take this opportunity to say thank you, not just to the community but more so to the faculty here."

"I was inspired by what he showed me. He showed that I can do anything I want to do," Nequa Valley Student Gbenja Okubaja said.

"I just know how important it is to have support. He just made me feel like anything is possible, and I can make my dreams come true," said Kristin Rohlwing, also a student.

Since the Olympics, it's been nonstop for Lysacek, who started skating at age 8. Along with fielding new opportunities, he is competing on ABC's Dancing With The Stars.

His dance partner joined him Friday.

"I think is going to give an amazing amount of positive energy, and sometimes, you need to have that feeling of, 'I have these people behind me,'" partner Anna Trebunskaya said.

A public rally was set for Lysacek Friday afternoon. Afterwards, the skater was expected to attend a fundraiser for long-time friend Stephanie Joseph, who died at the age of 21 of cancer. She was also a skater.