Shake-up in Men's Final at Olympic Winter Games

by Laura Fawcett
Evan Lysacek
Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

2006 Olympic Winter Games Photos, News and Blogs

(2/16/06) - It's usually during the hardest times of our lives that we learn the greatest lessons.

That was certainly true for U.S. silver medalist Evan Lysacek, who saw the dreams of a decade shattered Tuesday night when he finished 10th in the Olympic short program in Torino, Italy. Not only was his performance a disappointment, on the way back to the Olympic Village he started feeling queasy.

By Wednesday morning he had a full-blown case of the stomach flu. He missed an entire day of practice, spent the day with IVs feeding him fluids, and he even considered dropping out of the competition on the way to the Palavela arena Thursday night for the free skate.

But he chose to carry on. That determination paid off as Lysacek swept through his “Carmen” free skate, finishing third in that segment of the competition. He moved up six places to fourth overall and went from being the lowest American finisher to the top.

“With everything that I've been through over the course of the last few days I think that I'm really proud of my performance,” he said. “No matter what place I came in I was glad I could go out and finish the competition a lot stronger than I started. I've been saying all day that I've been dreaming about the Olympics for about a decade, and it never included getting the flu or having IVs. It turned out to be an Olympic experience that I think I'll always remember. It became about courage and finishing what I started.”

Although Lysacek said he could have done better on the ice presentation-wise, technically it was a great night for the 2005 World bronze medalist. He landed eight triples, three in combination, and received level 3s and 4s across the board on other elements.

“I'm very happy,” he said. “It was close to get a medal, and I think that if I was a little bit better in the short program I would have challenged for a medal. So that's upsetting, but it gives me a lot of confidence.”

As predicted, Russia's Evgeny Plushenko walked away with the gold medal, scoring a personal best and world record score of 167.67 in the free skate. He scored 15.36 points on a quad-triple-double combination, and his only real error was doubling a planned triple flip.

“It was my dream [to win the gold],” he said. “When I was 4, I saw a competition and said to my mum, ‘I have to be there.' I said that I wanted to be an Olympic champion. Now I have all the titles, and I'm really very happy.”

Plushenko talked about continuing his competitive career.

“I think about the next Olympics now,” he said. “I'm only 23, in four years I'll be only 27. It's a good age for a skater. I love skating; I love winning. It's my life.”

Reigning World champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland hung on to the silver medal, although he finished behind Lysacek in the free skate. For Lambiel it was a sub-par performance that included a fall on a triple Lutz and problems on his second quad toe. He landed a quad-triple-double combination and four other clean triples.

“I could have skated better, but for the first time I succeeded in doing a quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop-double loop, followed by a triple Lutz,” he said. “The medal I got is the dream I always had. The dream of the medal gives me the strongest belief in myself and to believe in the people who believed.”

Third place went to Canada's Jeff Buttle, who finished second in the free skate despite falling on a quad, putting his hand down on a triple Axel and doubling a planned triple loop. His entertaining and well-skated program resulted in strong component scores that kept him near the top of the standings.

Evgeny Plushenko
Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images
“Oh my god, I don't even know how I feel right now,” said Buttle after learning he won the bronze. “I thought that I skated very well.”

Johnny Weir, second after the short program, dropped to fifth overall with a free skate that included six triples and only one combination. Weir said a lack of preparation for the free skate after he missed the bus for the arena didn't help his cause. He had to take a car to Palavela and didn't arrive until 9:20 p.m., less than an hour before he was to take the ice for warm-up.

“I felt very rushed,” he said. “I missed the bus and had to jump in a car. I got here late. I never caught up to myself, and my body didn't catch up.

“I'm very disappointed in myself. I'm beyond angry with myself right now,” he continued. “My elements weren't strong. I don't deserve a medal tonight; I didn't expect one.”

Matt Savoie moved up one spot to seventh with an elegant program to music from “The Mission.” He was fifth in the free skate but had trouble again with his Lutzes, doubling two of them at the end of the program.

Savoie begins Cornell Law School in the fall and does not plan to compete next year. However, he will continue skate and said he doesn't know what the future will hold. "If it were my last performance, I'm proud and I would be happy with it,” he said. “Skating well always makes you want to keep skating. I wish I had been skating this way early in my career. Ending on a high note is something I've always dreamed about as well."

The United States was the only country to have more than one skater in the top 10.

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