Friday, February 19, 2010

Gold Goes to the Best Figure Skater

Even before he stepped onto the ice, Russia's defending Olympic champion let it be known through his swagger that the gold was his. The rest of the world could compete for the silver. Evgeni Plushenko was that confident.

At least one skater didn't think so. America's Evan Lysacek was confident of his artistry and athletic excellence as well and decided that, instead of verbal jousting with Evgeni, he will let his skates do the talking. And did they ever!

In the short program, Lysacek fell behind Plushenko by a huge margin. Just kidding. It was by a mere 0.55 points, the perfect place for Lysacek to be, since the pressure intensified on Plushenko to deliver.

Then came the long program two nights later. All year long, Plushenko had been chattering about how his quadruple jump would separate him from the boys. The quad would dazzle the judges and beget him the gold for sure.

Lysacek refused Plushenko's bait. There was enough fire and ice in his routine to render the quad irrelevant. He chose not to play by Plushenko's rule. And, as Robert Frost would say, that made all the difference.

Lysacek was flawless in execution. He was imaginative and daring. The poetry just flowed from him and viewers knew they were watching someone special. Plushenko was not as smooth. At times he even seemed to be going through the motions. His did score more with his quad toe loop–triple toe loop combination but all three of Lysacek's spin sequences were rated level 4 - the highest level of difficulty. Only two of Plushenko’s were level 4. Over all three spins, Lysacek outscored Plushenko by 1.26 points. When Plushenko fell 0.9 points farther behind in his step sequences, Lysacek’s overall margin of victory increased to a whopping (relatively speaking) 1.31.

The audience in the Pacific Coliseum agreed with the judges and roared their approval. Not so the prima donna Plushenko. At the award ceremony he was boorish. Clearly he felt that the judges were not perceptive or wise or smart enough to crown him the king.

"I was positive that I won," he said at the post-event press conference. He continued: "But I suppose Evan needs the medal more than I do. Maybe it's because I already have one. I have to share with you -- two silver and one Olympic gold -- that's not too bad."

What a sore and ungracious loser! Perhaps when the Vancouver Winter Olympics comes to be remembered more for Lysacek's stellar performance than any other athlete's, Plushenko will accept reality and redeem himself with some expression of humility.

America has found a winner in Lysacek on and off the ice. We can expect another gold from him in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. I wonder if Plushenko will be in the audience.

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