This isn't quite the way Evan Lysacek wanted to break into acting.
The reigning Olympic figure skating champion revealed Monday he's got a torn labrum in his left hip, further delaying his comeback. Lysacek hasn't competed since winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and said the latest injury will keep him out of next month's Skate America.
"My recovery has all the makings of any gripping reality show," Lysacek said at the U.S. Olympic Committee's media summit. "Not to make light of a serious situation. But there's constant developments, new characters constantly entered into the mix. So it's been quite eventful."
And while time is running out with the Sochi Olympics just over four months away, he's not bracing for the finale just yet.
"The goal, the big picture is, as it's always been, to compete at the national championships in January and earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi," he said.
Jason Brown, who last weekend finished second at Nebelhorn Trophy, will replace Lysacek at Skate America.
The first U.S. man in 22 years to win the Olympic title, Lysacek originally hoped to return to competition last season after a two-year break that included a runner-up finish on "Dancing with the Stars." But a torn abdominal muscle derailed those plans, and he turned his focus to this season.
Looking for feedback on his new programs, he went to U.S. Figure Skating's "Champs Camp" and during his short program on Aug. 21, he took a "violent" fall on a quadruple toe loop. Thinking he'd torn an abdominal muscle again, he stayed off the ice for the next month.
But he still felt some discomfort and soreness when he returned, and an MRI on Thursday showed the torn labrum.
"It's extremely unfortunate, but it's not the end of the world," Lysacek said.
Surgery was ruled out, and he's treating the injury with physical therapy. Though he wouldn't put a date on his return — "I'm hoping to be back on the ice as soon as I can" — he's made his timetable clear to his doctors.
"I've been very specific about what my goals are and the timeline I'd like to hit," he said.
The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where the Sochi Olympic team will be selected, are Jan. 9-12 in Boston. But the International Skating Union requires skaters to meet a minimum technical score in an international competition to compete at Sochi, meaning Lysacek will have to do an international event before nationals.
There are several lower-level events in Europe in November and December, and Lysacek said he's already working with U.S. Figure Skating to find a suitable competition.
"I'd like to gain some experience this fall," he said. "So making sure to get out internationally and compete at an event — if not two of the events — is crucial to our plan to prepare."
But Lysacek promised he would not rush his return. A notorious workaholic — longtime coach Frank Carroll's biggest challenge has always been making sure he doesn't overdo it in training — he said he's leaving his recovery plan up to his doctors and coach.
"I know I must follow the doctors' instructions to a T," he said.
Dick Button is the only man since World War II to win back-to-back Olympic titles, and most gold medalists don't even bother trying. But the challenge has always appealed to Lysacek, and he relishes the physical demands of being an elite athlete.
Nothing — not even this latest injury — has made him question that.
"I've tried not to let my mind wander to that place just yet. Through this arduous journey, I've battled to remain optimistic," Lysacek said. "I'm sticking with my goal. Right now, I'm not letting my mind go anywhere else."