Reigning World Champion Evan Lysacek of the United States skated a beautifully fluid free program this evening in Vancouver to claim Olympic gold in men’s figure skating. Lysacek’s overall event score of 257.67 bested 2006 Torino champ Evgeni Plushenko (Yevgeny Plyushchenko)’s mark by 1.31 points. Plushenko, who emerged from retirement to defend his Olympic title, settled for the silver medal. Daisuke Takahashi of Japan finished third with a score of 247.23.
Lysacek was the first of the top six skaters to take to the ice. He looked tense during warm-ups, but gradually relaxed. By the time his musical selection Sheherazade by Korsakov began, he seemed ready to skate. It wasn’t a perfect offering as he fought for a landing at one point, but all in all, it was an excellent performance and he celebrated the routine with several aggressive fist pumps, wearing his joy on his sleeve.
Plushenko skated last, and wowed the crowd – and NBC commentator Scott Hamilton – with his opening quadruple-triple combination. He went on to offer up a program “front-loaded” per Hamilton with difficult jumps, his trademark elements. It was good, but not as artistically pleasing as Lysacek’s offering.
The other Team USA members also finished in top 10 in the men’s figure skating event. Johnny Weir performed a fun, interpretive free skate and placed 6th, while reigning US Champion Jeremy Abbott bested his short program offering and finished his night in 9th.
Evan Lysacek is the first American man to win men’s figure skating Olympic gold since Brian Boitano earned the title in 1988. Since then, a string of amazing skaters from the Unified Team (1992) and Russia have taken the men’s gold. He’s also the first reigning World Champion to win Olympic men’s figure skating gold since Scott Hamilton accomplished the feat in 1984, according to NBC commentators.
Prior to the start of the 2010 Olympic Games, Evan Lysacek and Evgeni Plushenko were considered two of the men’s figure skating competitors to beat, but for different reasons. Plushenko’s skating is powerful, and his focus on perfecting an arsenal of jumps – including extraordinarily difficult quadruple combinations – is beyond impressive and shows in competition. He muscles his way through programs, often sacrificing grace for gusto, and frequently seems to quelch emotion from his performances.
Evan Lysacek, conversely, places emphasis on musical interpretation and artistry rather than muscle. Although his tall, lanky frame can look vaguely awkward on the ice, he still manages to pull off graceful, well-connected programs and he moves with the fluidity of a skater of much shorter stature. One of his hallmark qualities is also consistency, so his clean, second-place short program earlier in the week bode well for free skate success.
Evan Lysacek’s ex-girlfriend Tanith Belbin is set to compete with partner Ben Agosto in the Ice Dancing competition in Vancouver beginning tomorrow.
At the Vancouver Games, artistry won out over power in the men’s figure skating finals. The big question that remains is this: Will Evgeni Plushenko be back again in 2014?
Men’s Figure Skating Results, Vancouver 2010 Official Website
List of Olympic Medalists in Figure Skating, Wikipedia