Though an injury will keep Vancouver 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek off the ice in Sochi, the decorated U.S. figure skater says he can’t wait to travel to Russia.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympics, so I love it when they roll around every four years,” said Lysacek, who is part of the Coca-Cola “Four Pack” of athletes. “And while I won’t be in Sochi in the role I’d hoped, I’m excited to be there nonetheless.”

In addition to serving as a Coca-Cola ambassador of active living, he’ll work with the United States Olympic Committee in Sochi and provide on-air skating commentary for NBC’s TODAY Show. “I’ll be able to give back to the sport by educating viewers and giving my take on what’s going on in the competition,” he says.  

We caught up with the 28-year-old Chicago native during a recent visit to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta:

Most people know that Olympic athletes are supported by coaches, teammates, friends and family, but many may not realize support from corporate sponsors is critically important to the Olympic experience. How do companies like Coca-Cola help athletes train for and compete in the Games?

Olympians are not like professional athletes in any way except for the hours we put in. We don’t have multimillion-dollar endorsement contracts, and we’re not in the spotlight each day. We’re in a training rink behind closed doors with no press reporting on what we’re doing and no audience applauding us. It’s a very private journey. Then, when it comes time to burst into the spotlight and have your Olympic moment, it’s an incredibly special experience. The fact that the greatest beverage company on the planet has chosen me to be an ambassador of their brand is a wonderful feeling. From a logistics standpoint, the U.S. is one of only a few Olympic programs globally that is not federally funded. That means we as athletes rely very heavily on the support of our Olympic sponsors -- Coke being the longest-running Olympic sponsor -- to help cover our training expenses. Skating, especially, is a very expensive sport. So I can’t tell you how huge it was for Coke to help lift the financial burden off my back going into Vancouver and as I trained to try to compete in Sochi.

Do you have a favorite Coca-Cola memory?

Lysacek speaks to Coke employees in Atlanta.
Lysacek speaks to Coke employees in Atlanta.

I remember the day I got the call that Coca-Cola had chosen me to be part of their Six-Pack of Olympic athletes for Vancouver 2010. Growing up, my family and I were captivated by the Olympic Games. We were also a Coke family through and through, so for those two experiences to coincide was a cool moment for me. I also remember the day I received my official apparel with Coke branding and wore it to a skating competition. The pride I carried as an official representative of Coca-Cola -- being able to wear the logo as I participated in the sport I love so much -- was huge. Finally, after my performance at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles, I skated over to the “Kiss and Cry.” Fans were throwing stuffed animals and flowers onto the ice, but what caught my eye was a Coca-Cola polar bear. I picked it up and held it as I waited for the judges’ scores, clinching it tightly with white knuckles. I won, and that Coca-Cola bear instantly became my good-luck charm.

Most people are likely unaware of the rigorous physical demands of figure skating, which you’ve called an extreme sport. Can you describe your typical training day, on and off the ice?

It’s a full-time job! Growing up, I’d skate before school for two hours, then return to the rink in the afternoon until it was time to do homework, go to bed and wake up and do it all over again. Once I finished high school and convinced my parents I should pursue this Olympic dream of mine, my entire day became consumed with training. It starts in the morning with one or two hours of warm-up: doing calisthenics and getting my body ready to get on the ice for four to six grueling hours of miles and miles of skating at speeds up to 30 miles per hour, not to mention the jumps. Perfecting every step and move of a routine requires both strength and stamina. There’s a lot of falling and pounding on the body. My on-ice training is followed by a hard workout in the gym consisting of weightlifting, cardiovascular work, core training and plyometrics. It’s an all-encompassing regimen that takes up my whole day, every day. It’s my life.

You’re the most decorated U.S. male figure skater of the last decade. As an elite athlete, what active living tips can you share with average folks like me?

I’m constantly training, but even if I wasn’t an athlete, I’d still be just as active. Sports were such a big part of my life growing up. I feel uncomfortable if I sit for too long and don’t have a day with enough physical activity. When I travel, for my own sanity I work out for five to 15 minutes in my hotel room using a chair or my own bodyweight. My role with Coke as an ambassador for healthy living has a lot to do with promoting sports in general and helping all people figure how they can get active. It’s such a big part of my life and something I feel is very important for my overall health, and for my physical and emotional happiness.