The Sequined Gauntlet

            Yeah, it’s a little disconcerting to listen to one man wearing shiny bits and Lycra question the manhood of another, but that’s the bizarre machismo that is Olympic figure skating.

             Cold War on Ice erupted last night when Russian favorite Evgeny Plushenko, the best quadruple jumper among last night’s contenders in the men’s final, essentially said American winner Evan Lysacek – who, with a left foot injury, doesn’t even try the quad – skates like a woman, then intimated that geography mattered more than execution:

             “If Olympic champion cannot land quad … Now, it’s not men’s figure skating. It’s like dancing.”

            It's like Dancing with the Yankees – or, at least, the Canucks.

             “We are on your continent,” said Plushenko, noting that Canada and the United States border each other. “It’s going to be in our country (next time).”

             By the time the torch is lit in Sochi in 2014, Plushenko, whose silver here matches one won in 2002, hopes his quad carries more weight than it does now.

 “We need to change the judging system,” said Plushenko.

 He landed his quad, amid a choppy routine. He allowed he skated imperfectly, but, he contended, simply completing tougher elements should matter most.

 He hopes that happens within the next 4 years. He’s 27. He retired after winning gold in 2006 but came back in September to defend his Olympic title.

 By the sound of it, he isn’t retiring again.

 “I need to learn (much),” he said.

Until the quad gets more heft, Plushenko needs to learn how to skate like Lysacek.

 “Tonight, my focus was getting every point I could out of that routine,” said Lysacek. “If it was just a jumping competition, they’d give you 10 seconds to do your best jump.”

 He wasn’t the more manly jumper, but he was the better skater, by 1.31 points, proving, for now, elegant style counts for more than brute strength. For that, Lysacek’s coach, Frank Carroll, is grateful – and validated, by the judges, who, by their actions, agreed that excellence should be rewarded at least as much as what Plushenko calls progress.

 Not that the judges discounted Plushenko’s efforts:

 “I don’t think this was a statement,” Carroll said. “I don’t think they were trying to send a message.”

 Plushenko’s message was clear, and as loud as his shiny duds.

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