Olympic Men’s Skating: As the Russian Flies

Thing of beauty, eh?

Congrats to 2006 Olympic men’s figure skating silver medalist and reigning world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland, bronze medalist Jeff Buttle of Canada, the courageous American Evan Lysacek (battling stomach flu, he skated to a fourth-place finish with a remarkable, passionate program that excelled technically and artistically), the elegant Japanese skater Daisuke Takahashi (who finished eighth; this youngster showed lots of potential) and the exciting and graceful Shawn Sawyer (a Canadian up-and-comer with real style). Skating devotees should keep an eye out for these guys – big futures should be in the offing for all of them. And for US national champ Johnny Weir too, despite his disappointing fifth-place finish. But this one was settled before any of these young men took the ice at the Torino Games.

Yep, this night was Evgeni Plushenko’s from the get-go; he really won the gold two nights ago, during the short program. His long-program performance – riveting to be sure, though not his best – was more than enough to seal the deal. That became clear when he opened with a flawless quadruple toe loop-triple toe-double loop combination and followed it with a gorgeous triple axel-double toe.

Tonight’s win makes the driven Plushenko, who scored the silver in 2002, the fourth Russian in a row to pick up Olympic men’s-skating gold. And he won decisively: The 23-year-old newlywed beat second-place Lambiel by more than 27 points. In more than 30 years of following amateur skating avidly, I cannot recall ever seeing such a blowout. To have it be so well-deserved made this men’s competition a joy to behold, even if some of the competitors wilted under the pressure and missed some of their crucial jumps (particularly those dreaded quads).

Didn’t matter, in the end: This was Evgeni Plushenko’s night from beginning to end, and this skating fan feels like a winner for having seen it. Next up on the ice in Torino: women’s individuals and ice dancing. Can’t wait.

NOTE: Changed the spelling from Yevgeni to Evgeni after learning that this is the skater’s preferred form. Several spellings are making the rounds of international media: Yevgeni, Yevgeny, Evgeny and Evgeni.

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