Did Evgeni Plushenko’s Mouth Cost Him the Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medal versus Evan Lysacek?

Evgeni Plushenko mid-jump

UPDATE:
Canadian Olympic silver medallist and former world champion figure skater Elvis Stojko wrote an article trashing the Olympics’ men figure skating results
called The Night They Killed Figure Skating. It pretty much sums up my sentiments. But who was I to say such a thing? Thanks for setting the record straight, Elvis! You tell them! They had the ultimate showman back on ice and they’re going to drive him away for more pansies to be competing. Some people just can’t get over how insignificant they are, you know? Pity the sport. Evgeni was very diplomatic in defeat at the podium ceremonies, though. A showman to the last moment.

Also, see my follow up post after watching the ladies’ free skate:

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After the men’s figure skating short program, Evgeni Plushenko was in the lead and said something to the extent that the future of men’s figure skating was in the quad, or quadruple jump. The story went through the press as a challenge to all male figure skaters’ manhood if they did not do quads in their programs, as he vowed to be a man among boys. (CTV News, Feb 17 2010)

Without a quad it’s not men’s figure skating.
— Evgeni Plushenko, three-time world champion and 2006 Winter Olympics Champion

Well, tonight, in the long program, Evgeni did a very difficult quad-triple combination, and was still beaten by the American Evan Lysacek, who did not do a quad jump.

The difference was Lysacek had a lot of elements piled up in the second half of his program where they had 10% more value. Evgeni and Evan actually had the same “component” score for elements in their program. Shockingly, Lysacek beat Plushenko in the technical component despite Evgeni having piled up points for his quad-triple axle combination. Evgeni had a full minute without jumps to finish up his program. Both skaters were nearly flawless otherwise.

Lysacek finished a point ahead of Plushenko, with Evan getting 257.67 and Evgeni getting 256.36 points.

Scoring systems and all, some of it is still human judgment, and I can’t help but think that if Evgeni had kept his mouth shut, he might have gotten gold. You can’t look at his comment on the future of skating just as an insult just to the skaters like the media did. Who do you think judges the event and truly determines the future of figure skating? Some people seriously need to get over themselves!

All and all, though, what a night of brilliant skating!

Daisuke Takahashi won bronze with a distant 247.23 points, but was the first Japanese man to end up on the men’s figure skating podium at the Olympics.

Patrick Chan of Canada, who I’m not a particular fan of, I must say, finished 5th. Maturity and charisma wise, he was literally a boy among men.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.0

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34 thoughts on “Did Evgeni Plushenko’s Mouth Cost Him the Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medal versus Evan Lysacek?

  1. The difficulty and execution of the event is what puts Evan above the Russian. Sure the russian did a quad but not a good one. Evan has style and grace on the ice. tonight he outskated plushenko. Sorry.

    • Thanks for your comment, Cheryl. I didn’t think Evan had the more difficult program. I thought he executed his easier program better than Plushenko executed his more difficult program, but not by much. The quad toe – triple toe combo looked pretty good to me, and definitely much harder than anything Evan did. I’d give Evan the grace points (pun intended), but style? Evgeni is the ultimate show man on the ice! If grace is what’s going to win these competition, cause that’s what Evan had, not style, I’ll watch something else!

  2. How true the statement.
    Lysacek won the medal, Plushenko won the skating.
    About on a par with the stitch up at Salt Lake when an outstanding Irina Slutskaya was also denied her rightful gold.
    About time to take the cold war out of the skating rink.
    North Americans should remember this is sport not blatant politics.

    • Thank you for your comment, Elizabeth. I’m not sure I’d put the Cold War in this still, but you’re right about how Plushenko won the skating. I just hope this doesn’t drive Plushenko into retirement. Lysacek is doubtful about defending his world championship from last year, when Plushenko wasn’t there, and he should be. Unless the judges are going to be self-important again, Lysacek knows he’ll get crucified, and the crowd in Europe will also crucify him!

  3. The better man won. Plain and simple. But its funny to hear how pissed people are, who dont judge skating, about this. HA, keep that blood pressure up, that’ll show ’em.

    • I neither know Evan nor Evgeni to know who was the better man, but I know Evgeni was the better skater. No contest! It’s always “safe” to ride on the judges’ side rather than be truly analytical. But I wouldn’t say Elvis Stojko isn’t knowledgeable about judging figure skating, and he completely trashed them far worse than most people did!

  4. Maybe Evgeni should read the rules before he competes next time. And Elvis should read the rules before he passes judgment on today’s skaters. A skater can no longer throw down a quad and blow a few kisses, then demand the gold medal as his birthright. He has to have footwork, spins, complex entrances into jumps, and smooth exits out of jumps, as well as jumps—in other words, the complete package of skating skills. Plushenko skated an old-style program and expected to be rewarded for it under the new system. Fool. He came to Vancouver as a champion. He left as a whiner. I used to be a fan. No longer.

    • Nancy, I am sure Elvis MORE than KNOWS the rules! As does Evgeni. The system isn’t great, and the judges make it worse because the system just gives some justification for the judges to act in exaggerated manners so as to skew the scoring so badly a travesty like Lysacek could win. Evgeni had lots of other elements than just his jumps, and maybe they weren’t as good as Lysacek, but they weren’t much worse whereas not having a quad is a huge difference! If grace was valued, though, Johnny Weir probably should have won. Lysacek won on grace points, pun intended, and that was pretty much it! And grace isn’t going to promote the sport or sell tickets. It’ll just draw a bunch of second rate prancers into the sport while those capable of much more will go find something else to do, and the world will be at a big lost for it cause of a few egotistical judges and others making the rules.

  5. I’m Russian living in US. It was very upseting to me how media and NBC commentators were trashing Plushenko during TV translation. Very disrespectful and onesided. Olimpics are still politics and Lysachek was pushed and praised to judges. I am disgusted! Scott Hamilton was the only nice commentator to all skaters. And it should be like that. The other two, man and a woman, were just awful! Where was miss Fleming?

    • Definitely agree, Tanya! I saw some clips and read some comments. What happened to unbiased and objective journalism, eh? I get to watch Canadian commentators, and we’re relatively nice. 🙂

  6. I agree with Tanya. Russia gets so much venom from the commentators! Frankly, yes, Plushenko did not skate a squiky clean program, but the whole system makes no sense if he places second and not first. Obviously it’s easier to skate easier things cleanly, and if we assume the rules reward cleanliness and “transition” (what bs, by the way – what is this, ice dancing?!) then why on earth did Johnny Weir place so low?! He skated a very clean program save for his one spin error, was MILES ahead of Lysacek in terms of expression, and looked much better than Lysacek overall (who does not seem to have a neck… or it could just be the costumes). Why did he place out of the podium then? Clearly the judging system is out of sync with any kind of logic.

    Finally, I sincerely hope that Plushenko and Lysacek face off at the upcoming World Championship. For the sake of figure skating, we must have a reigning champion who pushes the sport foward, and does not just skate easy moves cleanly.

    • Fortunately, I get to watch Canadian commentators. I agree with you on my dislike for a scoring system that rewards safe and easy, and that if so, if executed fairly, Johnny Weir should have done well. Lysacek also looked like some grease ball with hair smoother than his own transitions.

      I hear Lysacek is probably not going to go to worlds. Probably some new rules not allowing pansies there. 😉

  7. I can’t believe that you can win the Olympics with out the quad. It is wrong. I think it’s a fake win and a real champion shoul be the best. Not some pussy fake!

  8. Pluchenko was robbed and Lysacek is the worst winner ever. Unfortunatly for the americans WHOUL WORLD KNOWS IT.

  9. Now that some of the hoop-ha has died down, thought I’d add in some thoughts on the whole Plushenko-Lysacek circus. And circus it is. Where would our love of figure skating be without the circus that follows nearly every recent Olympics event? 🙂 I will start my comments with acknowledging several things up front:

    1. nothing… I repeat, nothing (including anything I may say in the rest of this comment)… should take away from Evan Lysacek’s performance at the Olympics. He skated the skate of life when and where it counted and he should bask for the rest of his life in fact that he was judged worthy of Olympic gold.

    2. nothing… I again repeat, nothing (also including anything I may say in the rest of this comment)… can excuse Evgeny Plushenko’s poor sportsmanship behavior. Congratulate your fellow man for skating a skate worthy of equal footing with you (and whatever the color of your damned medal, a 1-2 point difference is equal in my books). That’s what the spirit of competition is all about. Do your best, hope everyone else does their best. Be judged on your respective best performances and be happy with the results. If your standing wasn’t as high as you’d hoped, do better next time. That’s the competitive spirit. Evgeny should have actually been pleased that there was good competition this time around. For his last Olympic gold, there wasn’t any. 🙂

    Now, onwards to my real thoughts…

    Despite my opening two concessions, I have to stand in camp Evgeny on this debate. I do in fact believe that he deserved the 2010 Olympic gold medal. Why? Simple. Figure skating is in the Olympic games as a sport and is (or at least should be) judged as a sport. Now before you pipe in with what surely are lengthy well thought our arguments about artistry in athleticism, I will be first to say that, yes, the best athletes of ANY sport are also artists in motion. I will go one step further and say also that the best ARTISTS are also very much athletes. For example, we all know that the most well loved athletes and arguably most talented and skilled to boot are those who not only play their sport magnificently but also bring in a unique style and flare to it. A wonderful vision that can only be reached when they’ve reached a certain level of mastery. Those are the athletes that get inducted into the whatever-sport hall of fame. On the flip side, let’s take a musician for the artist side. All musicians know that there is a great deal of practice, discipline, routine, stamina, repetition, muscle strength, respiratory reserve, etc that goes into “being great”. All of these things are very much athleticism.

    But what differentiates a sport from an art is where the crux of the debate lies. Even if you can see art in an athlete as he competes or an athlete in an artist as he competes, a sport is a sport and art is art. The difference comes in WHAT DEFINES the activity. No matter how good your technique is and how long you practice routines, if all you can do is hammer out random notes on a keyboard, that is not music. It’s noise. If you play a sloppy song, you may not be making GOOD music, but it is STILL music. So the music makes the art and the technique makes it good art. In a sport (let’s stick with figure skating to make things simple), the technique is the essential. If I use the extreme example, consider a skater who ONLY skates around beautifully. Great lines, wonderful expression, speed, clean curves, etc. but no jumps, no spins, no technical things. That is not figure skating at all. On the complete extreme opposite, take someone who skates in straight lines only from jump to jump (like many of those youthful, talented, up and coming “jumping machines”). You have a figure skater who hasn’t matured and developed his presence and feeling yet. See the difference? As with the difference between music and good music, here is the difference between an athlete and a good athelete. An athlete goes through the motions while a good one does it with heart and style. But the former is STILL an athlete.

    So. Where does that lead me? Let’s focus on Evgeny and Evan’s skates. I have read through many blogs and opinions and articles. No one (whatever side of the debate you are on) has argued that Evgeny’s free skate (or his short program for that matter) was technically of a poorer standard than Evan’s. In fact, it appears that the only thing everyone agrees on is that Evgeny’s program was technically more difficult that Evan’s. So it all comes down to execution and performance. I recall that Evgeny did NOT lose to Evan on his program component. He lost on the technical component. Evgeny is clearly NOT in the category of “young” skaters who can only skate in straight lines between jumps. He had the footwork, the spins and the artistry in between. So let’s not lump this great skater into the group of people who can only jump and do nothing else. That is blatantly false. Now, while I admit I am no expert in figure skating, I could clearly see that Evgeny’s performance (though not his best) was in fact technically flawless. Yes. Flawless. No falls, no two-foots, no under-rotations, no missteps, no stumbles, no trips, no missed elements, etc. So it appears that the judgment came down on how the two skaters ”LOOKED LIKE” in the air. That’s rather flimsy and subjective. If I take this out of figure skating for a line or two and give this example: imagine a hockey game. A player slips and falls flat on his face as he slaps the puck into his opponents net. The puck goes in. How does that count? Obviously as a goal. What if the referees decided to not count that point or count it as half a point FOR POOR EXECUTION OF THE SHOT?? Who would stand around pontificating about which team scored the prettier shot? No one. We’d all jump over the board and beat the crap out of the referee. A goal is a goal. If the puck is in the net and no penalties were called on the shot, it’s a goal. So, back to figure skating, if Evgeny landed all his jumps cleanly, why in the world was his technical score lower than Evan’s (who skated a technically inferior program)? That’s a sad statement of affairs. I don’t care what the hell is on those new scoring cards (again, the “grade of execution” amongst other mumbo jumbo is SUBJECTIVE and while it can be graded it should NOT be the grade that differentiates between two ATHLETES in a SPORTS competition). The fact remains that Evgeny did NOT make a mistake and better or worse than Evan on ” appearance of a jump”, he did NOT look horrendous in the air or on the ice (I keep bringing up they BOTH had artistry). And I think that’s why Elvis Stojko had a big beef with the outcome and titled his article “The Night They Killed Figure Skating”. Except that I would have to add to the title and make it “The Night They Killed Figure Skating as a Sport”.

    So, to conclude this rather lengthy rant… I believe the gold medal should have been awarded to Evgeny Plushenko. I agree with other opinions already previously put out there that the true goal of any athlete (the drive to be a champion of any kind, let alone an Olympic champion) is to always want to push your physical limits and the physical limits of your sport. When you have done so, the artform of a sport will come naturally. I again concede what I started with in this comment, that nothing can take away from Evan Lysacek’s stupendous performance and that nothing can excuse Evgeny Plushenko’s rude and unsportsmanship response to silver, but I also end with the sentiment that Evgeny and his supporters had every right to be furious with the results.

    • Foosbaby! I LOVED it that you decided to BRING IT with your comment! Well done! Holy smokes! And well argued as well! If I had devoted more time to my blog post, I couldn’t have made it better than your comment!

      Speaking of which, if you’re so analytical and opinionated, have you thought about having your own blog? If you do, you didn’t leave an address here. That’s stuff worthy of blogging whereas there is so much out there that isn’t!

      Thanks for taking the huge time to think and share on my blog among the many you read on this matter. I’m flattered!

  10. hmmmm. Whatever happened to striving for the olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger)? Why is it even a discussion? If you aren’t going to aim to surpass yourself and your peers in the physical arena, don’t participate in the olympics. It’s a mockery to this great event.

    • Artistry can be demanding athletically, but I don’t think what Lysacek was doing fell into that category anywhere near enough to justify it suiting the Olympic motto as you said, Len. Thanks for sharing.

  11. of course Digital Citizen. Footwork and spins demand a great deal of athleticism. I wasn’t limiting my comments to the jumps (which I didn’t even mention specifically). But sadly the only male figure skater I have ever seen bring footwork to the next level was Kurt Browning. Everyone else’s footwork (before and after) pales in comparison. And the only male figure skater that I have ever seen bring spins to the next level is Stephen Lambiel. Wow that man can spin!! Neither Plushenko nor Lysacek broke any ground in those categories and BOTH their overall artistry was high-mediocre at best. But at least Plushenko is still trying to break the boundaries in the jumps. He knows that fewer and fewer men are practising let alone attempting the quads. In fact, fewer and fewer men are doing the triple axel even. Yet DESPITE this knowledge, he still does them. AND he has even practised the quad flip and lutz. That’s what I meant by my comments. See a challenge and rise to meet it. A true Olympic champion embodies the Olympic spirit as put so succintly in that motto. Faster, Higher, Stonger. Not literally run faster, jump higher and fight stronger, but metaphorically to emphasize the drive and burning desire to be BETTER. To exceed yourself, your peers, your mentors. To bring your sport to the next level. Plushenko was really the only male figure skater who actually embodied any of this spirit at all this Olympics (Lambiel was still great with the spins, but NOT significantly better than he was 4 years ago). Even more amazing because Plushenko is definitely past his prime but still pushing the limits.

    So, while I usually enjoy the men’s skates most, I was quite disappointed overall this time. The ladies on the other hand… wow. There’s some fire and passion on that side of the fence!! 🙂

  12. Being just about a year since the Olympics, I thought I would take another look at the long programs put down by the top two. Honestly, I couldn’t even finish watching Plushenko. his jumps were there, but they were poor quality, and his transitions were non existent. As a figure skater myself, I can appreciate his ability to save the triple axels like he did, but seriously…..cross overs -> jump -> cross overs -> jump -> cross overs -> jump. until the triple loop, there were no turns other than those in the air.
    And then his idea of artistry is to stand in the middle of the ice, sneer at people, and gyrate? other than his footwork, he did nothing but jumps, spins and footwork. I am honestly surprised that Daisuke Takahashi wasn’t closer or even beating him. The other two men on the podium were both men who put well choreographed INTERESTING programs down.
    And as for your comment about Patrick Chan…
    1. I don’t really see the need to say anything about him in the article, as he had nothing (really) to do with the article.
    2. He literally was a boy among men, he was 19 at the time of the Olympics. Plushenko was 27. Thats a HUGE difference.
    3. No matter what you may have thought about him then, I want you to look at Plushenko’s program, and then go watch Patrick’s from the recent National championships. Now tell me who’s the better skater.

    Seriously people, watch the long programs again. Lysacek’s was the better one. It was more interesting, executed better and had the jumps throughout the program, not just at the beginning. A quad toe + triple toe is worth 14.40 points and a triple axel is worth 8.5. Lysacek’s program definetly made up the 6 points that he lost simply due to where his jumps were. Plushenko had 3 jumps, one in combination that got the extra bonus while Lysacek had 5 jumps, 2 of which were in combination, one with three jumps in the second half. If Plushenko had had a better choreographed program, he could have easily won.

    End of story folks: Plushenko didn’t win because he didn’t pay attention to the way that the sport has changed since 2006. Lysacek knew the system and used it to his advantage. But not only that, he skated 2 amazing programs. I was looking forward to Plushenko before he started beaking the competition, but after watching his skate, i was disappointed that he came back at all, as he is waaaaaay past his prime.
    I’m glad that he is no longer eligible to compete under the ISU

  13. Sorry….. ***other than Plushenko’s footwork (the required component), he did nothing but jumps and spins. No actual artistic skating skills were involved.***

    last i checked, this sport is called figure SKATING not figure jumping

  14. Did I say it was a prance? Have you ever figure skated in your life? If you had, you would know that the artistic connecting footwork is more challenging than simple crossovers in between jumps.

    • Yeah, but see, you’re talking about it from a skater’s perspective. I’m talking about it from a spectator’s perspective. The fans don’t care how difficult something really is. If there’s no flash to it, then who cares? Nobody’s showing up to watch yoga on skates, or other shenanigans one can try on skates that don’t look like much but can be quite difficult. If we were talking cars, nobody cares how complex the engine might be to create and something might be to drive, if you’re not going to drive it in style that’s entertaining to watch, you can have the track to yourself.

      There are points awarded for footwork and artistic impressions, sure, but if people are going to skate and win on that, they don’t need the audience there who can’t see most of it in any level of appreciable details.

  15. Ah but the headline isn’t “Did Evgeni Plushenko’s mouth cost people not to show up and watch” you were saying that he didn’t win. The audience doesn’t pick the winner, the judges do. And because this new system is so complex, figure skaters now actually study it and learn what the judges are looking for.
    And the skater that wins nowadays is the one that combines both the jumps and the artistic side of things.

    • Fine. And if they keep that up, they can skate for an audience of judges you can count on a single hand or in an art gallery or dance troupe on ice rather than a sports competition.

  16. The new system has actually allowed figure skating to become more audience-oriented because in the past the skaters weren’t really recognized for difficult choreography and reaching out and connecting with the audience like they do now. Before, it was “let’s put as many jumps as we can in our program and then at the last second, remember that people are watching”. Now, judges will tell skaters that their marks would be better if they had performed for the audience more.
    Personally, I find a program with intricate choreography lasting the entirety of the skate is more interesting and captivating than one where a skater relies so much on the jumps that they leave the choreography out and just do basic turns and cross overs.

    • Really? You think people were holding their breath and holding in their eyeballs at Lysacek’s pansy prancy parade around the ice? It’s nice to see he can do some warm-up stretches between his jump and do a twinkle toes impression, but I got more relaxed watching Lysacek than anticipating the next commercials. I don’t know what audience you’re talking about that’s more engaged in the new figure skating, but I’m not among them. It may be more skilled, but it’s about as exciting as watching 8 year olds skate. Actually, I’d prefer the 8 year olds who can jump, even if singles, cause there’s a threat something would go really right or wrong.

  17. Okay maybe Lysacek wasn’t the greatest example. Neither of their performances were much above boring. But remember that Lysacek won because he took advantage of the extra 10% bonus for jumps in the second half, which Plushenko seemed to forget.

    This is what the new system has brought to the table, pure brilliance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqukDncI51s

    • OK. You win. You’ve suckered me into wasting more of my life than I care to regret on something I don’t care that much about. My solution is I’ll watch figure skating and skip anybody the commentators mention who’s going to try to win on the points system, which I will now call the Plushenko Rules. That’s in the theme of how some rules were made to stop certain people/teams from being too dominant, like some hockey rules were made to stop the Edmonton Oilers of the Gretzky era from cleaning out everybody. So when Lysacek or anyone hinted at trying to take advantage of the Plushenko Rules comes on, I switch the channel. Simple but effective. Everybody who likes it gets it. I don’t like and I don’t get it.

      Why don’t you try my free Myers-Briggs test to see how Judging you are. You’re more than me, apparently! 🙂
      https://digitalcitizen.ca/2011/02/20/free-myers-briggs-test/

      Let’s hope we don’t ever cross paths in real life cause if we are like this over skating rules, God protect the world should we really argue about something important! 🙂

      Congratulations!

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