Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Olympic skating - IMHO Part II

I had to take some time after last Thursday's men's Olympic Figure Skating final to recover. I was thinking about what I wanted to write to follow up my earlier post when it happened...and I'm still in shock, although many friends remind that I shouldn't have been surprised.

Evan Lysacek won the Olympic Gold Medal by a narrow margin ahead of Russia's Evgeny Plushenko. Plushenko was a poor sport and pouted. And he's still pouting.

I'm going to say this right now: Lysacek outSKATED Plushenko. Plushenko may have outJUMPED Lysacek, but this is a skating competition and not a jumping competition. Interestingly, if it was a jumping competition and you only counted the number of jump revolutions, then Plushenko still loses! Lysacek jumps had a total of 32 revolutions (3Lz+3T/3A/3S/3A+2t/3Lo/3F+2T+2Lo/3Lz/2A) and Plushenko, even with his quad, still had one less revolution (4T+3T/3A/3A+2T/3Lo/3Lz/3Lz+2T/3S/2A). Technically, Lysacek beat Plushenko, not in the air, but at ice level - step sequences and spins. Lysacek's circle step sequence was a full point above Plushenko's (5.10 to 4.10) and Lysacek's flying sit spin was a level four while Plushenko's was only a level three.

Leaving the number crunching behind, Lysacek's jump quality was superior to Plushenko. You need to consider the four parts of a jump - the approach, the take-off, air position and the landing. Just think -flow in and flow out. Plushenko's jumps in the air were often tilted and his landings were scratchy and, at times, lacked flow. Lysachek's jump looked easy because he has perfected them.

Plushenko's behavior since the end of the competition has been disappointing for a past Olympic champion. Even more disappointing was a commentary the next morning on Yahoo! Sports by Canadian champion and two-time Olympic Silver Medalist, Elvis Stojko. Elvis' commentary was that Plushenko should have won the gold medal based on the quad alone. Reading the commentary broke my heart because I always admired Elvis and liked his spunky, athletic skating.

Many have said that the commentary was just sour grapes by Stojko because he never won the gold. That's sad. Elvis railed against the judges and how the system is set up. How, by not automatically giving the gold to Plushenko, we had set the sport back by years.

Thankfully, Elvis wasn't the only former two-time Olympic Silver Medalist from Canada to share his thoughts on the men's event. Brian Orser (who won the silver in 1984 and 1988) said that "given the system today," the right skater won the event.

The sport is different from Elvis' time. Now, each skater has the same number of elements to perform during a 4:30 minute program. If they are smart (and Frank Carroll and Lori Nichols are very smart), they design a program that takes full advantage of the points and then make sure the skater performs each element well enough to gain additional points for the elements from the judge's GOEs (Grade Of Execution). Plushenko didn't do that.

The right skater won the event.

And yes, I think the right dance team won the dance event last night. My American heart was hoping that Meryl and Charlie would win, but Tessa and Scott had the performance of their lives. If you're asking about the bronze medal ice dance team, that's a different story.

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