Lysacek is first American man to win figure skating gold since 1988

Enjoy an up close and personal look at the action in Canada.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 19, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Russian Evgeni Plushenko raised his arms and pointed both index fingers triumphantly when his music stopped Thursday night, announcing to the crowd at the Pacific Coliseum that he was number one. Plushenko, however, ran into a problem. The judging panel disagreed.

Though Plushenko took the ice last among the top skaters in the Olympic men's free program and landed the quadruple jump he had claimed was necessary for victory in an Olympic Games, his powerful program could not top the cleaner, more dynamic but quad-less effort put forth by American Evan Lysacek earlier in the evening.

The result left Plushenko clearly bruised, and made history for both nations: Lysacek, 24, screamed with joy and hugged his coach when he learned became the first American man since Brian Boitano in 1988 to win the Olympic men's figure skating gold.

"This is proof that dreams truly come true," Lysacek said. "This gold medal was not planned . . . [but] I felt really confident and really over my feet. I knew that was maybe my best skate ever."

Plushenko smiled and blew a kiss at the cameras when he learned his nation's streak of Olympic gold medals was over at four, but he later said through an interpreter he had been certain he had won when he finished. He added: "I suppose Evan needs a medal more than I do."

Plushenko, 27, who came out of a 3 1/2 year retirement to compete here, ended up just 1.31 points behind Lysacek, who outscored him both in the night's long program (167.37 to 165.51) and overall (257.67 to 256.36). Despite a fifth-place in the long program, Daisuke Takahashi won the bronze -- the first Olympic medal in the event for Japan -- with totals of (156.98 and 247.23).

"I was positive that I won," said Plushenko, who won the gold in 2006 and silver in 2002. "Maybe [I lost] because I already have one. But I have to share with you, two silvers and one Olympic gold, that's not bad."

American Johnny Weir claimed sixth (238.87) points and Jeremy Abbott, the U.S. champion, got ninth (218.96)

When summoned to receive his silver medal, Plushenko climbed to the top step first before stepping down to his designated spot, a maneuver that elicited murmuring from the crowd. Lysacek, who seemed beside himself with joy, did not seem to mind -- and he even laughed during the press conference as Plushenko went on at length without a single gracious word.

"It's always difficult to skate last," Plushenko said.

Asked about the scoring, he said: "I'm a simple athlete, a simple figure skater. I just do my job. However, my basic position and attitude is that movement must go forward and never go back. . . . As I said, I knew I would accept any result . . . however, after this defeat, I'm not going to put my hand down and stop, and I think people need to do lots of quads."

Lysacek countered that he had spent more time working on his spins and transitions than he had ever put toward a quad jump, and that he considered all of those elements important.

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