Sunday, March 28, 2010
Residents of the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois celebrated Evan Lysacek Day last Friday. Held in honor of the gold medalist in figure skating at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the day started with a rally at the former Naperville resident’s high school, Neuqua Valley High School.
Neuqua awarded Lysacek its first-ever Distinguished Alumni Award. He was the first American since 1988 to win the gold in men’s figure skating, having started the sport since he was eight. Despite being busy with other engagements and starring in the TV show Dancing with the Stars, Lysacek was excited about the opportunity to visit his hometown.
He also took the opportunity to thank his former teachers, who he said worked hard to keep him caught up in his studies amidst his hectic skating career. “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,” he told the crowd at Neuqua.
The skater’s achievements have inspired the residents of his hometown. “I was inspired by what he showed me. He showed that I can do anything I want to do,” said Neuqua student Gbenja Okubaja. At a Chamber of Commerce lunch held later that day, Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel awarded Lysacek the key to the city, saying “I don’t know what it opens, but I’ve been told its already opened the hearts of everyone here in Naperville.” In response Lysacek joked, “I hear it opens all the banks here in Naperville.”
Afterwards, Lysacek attended a fundraiser held in honor of skater and long-time friend Stephanie Joseph, who died of cancer at the age of 21.