Evan Lysacek bested Evgeni Plushenko on the ice to win the gold medal in men’s figure skating in Vancouver, making him the first American since Brian Boitano in 1988 to win Olympic gold.
Plushenko, who lost the gold by only 1.31 points, had expected to skate easily to victory. However, his technical program, which usually by far surpasses other competitors, was lacking in its usual quality. Ultimately, it was Lysacek’s program execution, including spins, footwork, and jumps, that proved to be superior to Plushenko’s, earning him the right to stand on the winner’s podium.
Both Lysacek and Plushenko tied in the artistic elements of their programs, but Lysacek slightly edged Plushenko in the technical elements. Unfortunately, controversy quickly arose regarding the merit of Lysacek’s technical performance. Plushenko said he did not consider Lysacek to be “a true men’s champion without a quad.”
If we accept Plushenko’s definition of what constitutes a “championship performance”, then successfully executing a quad makes the quality of other elements performed in a figure skating program irrelevant. Lysacek said “It’s interesting that he has chosen to put so much emphasis on one step.” Were Plushenko’s protests designed to distract from the fact that he was simply outskated by Lysacek?
Observing and listening to Plushenko since losing the gold to Lysacek provides a shining example of poor sportsmanship, reminding us that nobody likes a “sore loser.” Whether he sincerely believes he should have won the gold (compare his and Lysacek’s performances), his poor sportsmanship is an embarrassment to himself, to his country, and to the Olympics, and only reinforces his reputation as a whiner.
Undoubtedly, Plushenko is a world class figure skater, but on this particular night in Vancouver, what he had to offer was not good enough. Instead of graciously accepting defeat (if winning a silver medal should be considered a defeat), he tried to excuse his less-than-stellar performance by attempting to diminish Lysacek’s accomplishment. As evidenced by Lysacek’s interview with Bob Costas, Plushenko was to be defeated in this endeavor, as well.
Lysacek did not enter the competition with a preconceived notion of the outcome. His objective was to skate the best program he could skate. Not only was he able to skate his personal best, but he executed a near-flawless performance. On this particular night in Vancouver, his best was good enough.
Evan Lysacek proved himself to be a winner in more than just men’s figure skating. He showed character and “grace under fire”. Too bad there aren’t medals for handling disgruntled losers.