Men's Figure Skating
American Evan Lysacek defends his victory over Russian Evgeni Plushenko
Saturday, February 20, 2010
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- U.S. figure skater Evan Lysacek just wanted to enjoy the Olympic gold medal he never expected -- but always wanted -- hours after his upset victory over Russian Evgeni Plushenko in the Olympic men's figure skating competition Thursday.
Instead, Lysacek spent Friday enduring attacks on the legitimacy of his title from Russians and others upset both with his tactical approach and the judges' decision to give him a narrow victory over the 2006 gold medal winner.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent Plushenko, who claimed the silver medal, a telegram telling him his "silver was as good as gold" and he "performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice." Russian commentators decried the result, and two-time Olympic silver medal winner Elvis Stojko said in a column for Yahoo that Lysacek's skate wasn't "Olympic champion material" and "the judges made a mockery" of the event by rewarding Lysacek.
The debate centered solely around the fact Plushenko executed a quadruple jump and Lysacek did not. Bronze medal winner Daisuke Takahashi tried one, but fell attempting it and fell out of contention for the gold.
Lysacek contends that his nearly perfect program featuring eight triple jumps and complex spins, footwork and transitions topped Plushenko's more-wobbly effort with the quad and seven triples.
Plushenko fueled the controversy by wagging his index fingers in the air when he finished Thursday, then complaining about the judges' decision to put him 1.31 points behind Lysacek.
"You can't be considered a true men's champion without a quad," Plushenko told Russian state television, according to Reuters.
"For someone to stand on top of the podium with the gold medal around his neck by just doing triple jumps, to me it's not progress; it's a regress because we've done triples 10 or even 20 years ago," Plushenko said, according to Reuters. "Just doing nice transitions and being artistic is not enough because figure skating is a sport, not a show."
Lysacek and Canada's Patrick Chan, who finished fifth, have said the point-oriented judging system installed before the 2006 Winter Games encourages athletes to have well-rounded programs. And while the new system heavily rewards a successful execution of a quad, those who try it and fail face a substantial penalty.
Just a few skaters even attempted the jump Thursday, and only Plushenko and Japan's Takahiko Kozuka, who was eighth, actually landed it cleanly.
"Nobody likes to lose," Lysacek said. "Plushenko is a great guy, a great skater. I've admired him for years. I thought he did an outstanding job . . . For him to discredit the field, though, that's not right. It's probably the strongest men's field there's ever been, and I was honored to be" in the field.
Added Lysacek: "I guess I was a little disappointed that someone who is my role model would take a hit at me in what is probably one of the most special moments of my life."