Plushenko as brilliant as he's ever been

Enjoy an up close and personal look at the action in Canada.
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The text message from Russian Olympic teammate and Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin came just minutes after Evgeni Plushenko had completed his short program on the opening night of the men's Olympic competition, showing the same brilliance he displayed in winning the Olympic gold four years ago.

About three hours before Ovechkin took the ice for Russia's opening hockey game, he wrote in Russian to Plushenko, "We are all holding hands and watching you right now."

Plushenko provided a performance worthy of the hockey team's admiration.

Despite taking off 3 1/2 years after the 2006 Winter Games, Plushenko skated with flair, obvious confidence and great speed. As Plushenko skated across the ice, taking in wild applause from the Pacific Coliseum crowd, he feigned pulling a sword off of his waistband, kissing it in triumph, and tucking it back into its scabbard.

"The first fight is finished," he said. "I fight it with myself, and today I did very good."

The next fight will be with American Evan Lysacek.

Plushenko received 90.85 points from the judging panel, putting him just 0.55 ahead of Lysacek, the reigning world champion. Lysacek skated third-to-last and offered a vigorous response to Plushenko, setting up a showdown in Thursday's deciding free skate.

"This," Lysacek said, "just sets us up for the main event."

Japan's Daisuke Takahashi also executed a stellar program that scored 90.25, just .05 behind Lysacek, then declared it "the best program I've done all season."

Japan's Nobunari Oda stood in fourth with 84.85 points. Reigning Olympic silver medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland tallied 84.63 points for fifth.

When Lysacek finished, the crowd rose, and he covered his face with his feather-covered hands. He hit a gorgeous triple Axel and crisp jumps -- though no quadruple. He put out electrifying footwork and spins, and got fans roaring with an exhilarating program.

"I usually don't lose it like that," Lysacek said. "There was just so much to deal with today. I wasn't particularly nervous, but I just really felt the pressure . . . I don't know how many would have predicted this result."

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