Records Fall in Olympic Men's Short Programby Laura Fawcett
Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images Sport
(2/14/06) - Russia's Evgeny Plushenko dominated the men's short program as expected Tuesday night at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. But U.S. champion Johnny Weir is in contention for a medal after finishing second in the short program with a personal best score of 80.00.
Plushenko bettered his own world record by about three points en route to taking the lead at the Palavela in Torino, Italy. Smooth, controlled and quick on his feet, he shuttered away the demons of Salt Lake City, where a miss on the quad cost him a chance at the 2002 gold medal. This time, there was no mistaking who was on top.
“I'm very happy,” he said. “I achieved a new personal best, and I did it at the Olympic Games. This is very important to me.”
Plushenko landed a beautiful quad, and after the program he returned to the spot he where landed it to touch the ice.
“This is actually my secret,” he said about the ritual. “But I can tell you that I had to fight for this quad to the very end. I was leaning backwards. But I pulled it off; I stood up. So I was just thankful for that.”
Weir has been saying all week that it's a fight for the silver behind Plushenko, and the three-time U.S. champion is well into the battle. Hitting a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe combination and triple flip, Weir's “The Swan” program was at its best. He notched his own personal best score of 80.00, one of the highest scores ever posted in a short program.
"To be above 80 points at the Olympics Games, a major international competition, is really fantastic,” he said. “It's my personal best internationally. I'm not disappointed or surprised at my score at all. If anything I'm surprised I'm ahead of Stephane (Lambiel of Switzerland, the reigning World champion)."
Ever the perfectionist, Weir was clear that he thought his U.S. Championships short program was much better.
"Today went reasonably well, a little too slow and flat at the end,” he said. “At the same time I'm so excited my first Olympic experience is over and that it went reasonably well."
Matt Savoie broke hearts when he doubled and stumbled out of his triple Lutz attempt near the end of a breathtaking routine to “Adagio for Strings.”
“I've missed that jump in the past, and I think it's just a lapse of focus,” Savoie said. “It's the last jump in my program; it has been for years. It's also the last two jumps in my long program. I look forward to exacting my revenge.”
Now in eighth place, this is Savoie's best ever start in an international championship. In two World Championship appearances he finished 12th and 16th. His 69.15 total points is just less than 10 points behind third-place finisher Lambiel, who has 79.04.
The triple Lutz was the difference between eighth place and fourth place for Savoie. With the double he received just .90 points, while a clean triple could have been worth about six points. Savoie, who enters Cornell Law School this fall, has a positive outlook on the experience.
“I feel great knowing that I've been given this opportunity, and I still have a chance to remedy any mistakes I made tonight,” he said. “I definitely won't let those get in the way of my performance on Thursday. I definitely hope to walk away with a performance I can be proud of.”
Reigning World bronze medalist Evan Lysacek, who has been skating solidly in practice since arriving in Torino, struggled with his triple Axel in the warm-up, and that carried over to his performance. He fell on the Axel, quickly recovered for a triple flip-triple toe combination but then doubled his intended triple Lutz.
Lysacek was stunned by his performance.
“I had a great warm-up this morning at 9 o'clock in the morning,” he said. “Now it's about midnight I think, I'm not sure. I think I was just sitting in my room all day thinking and it was just building and building for the time to finally come and it finally came and I think I was just a little too excited. I started rushing and I didn't stick to the timing, the kind of relaxed mentality I usually have in a competition.
“I can't really analyze it too much because it wasn't really me skating today,” he continued. “It's like my mind was somewhere else. I'm really well trained. I've been doing clean run-throughs since I got here, so honestly I'm extremely disappointed but more than that I'm shocked at what happened – just really, really surprised.”
Lysacek is in 10th with 67.55 points.
Third place went Lambiel, who landed a quad-triple combination but managed only a double Axel. Also in the medal hunt are France's Brian Joubert (77.77 points), Japan's Daisuke Takahashi (73.77 points) and Canada's Jeff Buttle (73.29 points).