Well, that was unexpected.
The moment Evgeni Plushenko, fresh off a gold medal in the new Olympic figure skating team event, skated over to the judges’ stand after his warmup, clutching his back…well, who knew what to think? Was Evgeni simply letting the judges’ know what feats he would complete in his short program? Shades of Babe Ruth, pointing at the bleachers? Perhaps he was going to attempt three quads in his program, including an unprecedented quad axel. That had to be it. There was no way that Evgeni Plushenko, Olympic Champion & 3-time World Champion, was withdrawing from the men’s figure skating event at the first Winter Olympic Games ever held in his home country, leaving Russia with no entry in the men’s event. And yet, he did. No matter the reason, the sight of a figure skating legend leaving the ice before his music even begins is a sad one. Evgeni Plushenko may not have left the world of competitive figure skating in as grand a style as he had hoped (though, really, that was pretty grand) and he may have a few questions to answer to some young Russian skater who lost out on the chance to compete at an Olympic Games at home but Evgeni attained a jumping prowess that was, for many years, the target at which every male skater aimed. Evgeni’s excellence pulled the rest of the men’s field up and beyond.
The air had yet to return to the building when Jeremy Abbott took to the ice. It’s likely that the entire arena was still talking about Evgeni’s exit when Jeremy attempted his quad toe, just like so many other quad toes seen before…but then, whoa! Did you see that fall? Go and watch it! Though not to see how Jeremy bounced off his hip bone (his landing hip!) and careened into the (thankfully!) padded boards. Watch it to see the beautiful performance Jeremy laid down immediately after bellyflopping onto a frozen pond. That fall must have shocked Jeremy just as much as it shocked us because only a trained body running on autopilot could follow up a crash like that with a skate like that. New strategy: fall in a devastating way on your first jump, complete every other element in beautiful fashion, profit. Hopefully, Jeremy’s hip bone of steel will carry him through his long program; we’ve already lost enough competitors!
World Record? Check.
The men’s event was teeming with mistakes until Yuzuru Hanyu came out and showed us all that he is a straight up boss. Not only did he skate what seemed like the only clean program in the event, he landed every jump, including a quad-triple, like it was just the coolest walk in the park. And unlike the often meager stylings of an exceptional jumper, Yuzuru skates in the style of Chan: tremendous speed, beautiful performance, exceptional skating skills. Oh, he set a world record score? No kidding. No freakin’ kidding.
Patrick Chan’s short program wasn’t as impeccable as is possible for him but even with that step out on the triple axel, P. Chiddy’s skating is freakin’ majestic. He wove a trance over that entire arena and everyone watching at home. There is nothing that can be said about his skating that hasn’t already been said. Jumps? Smooth. Spins? Great. Footwork? We already went over this…majestic! Performance? Uh, still in a trance over here.
Yuzuru and Patrick have set up a real battle for the gold medal, one worthy of the Olympic Games. Right behind them is a good, ol’ fashioned melee of skaters jostling for that bronze medal…though it’s always when we think the top two spots are tied up that someone sneaks through for the silver…
Men’s free program. Friday. Cancel your Valentine’s Day plans, guys, ’cause it’s gonna be a barn-burner!