Question: How did you handle the stress of watching Evan Lysacek’s free skate? Did you leave the room believing if you didn’t watch, he’d win? Did you stay on your sofa but close your eyes for the jumps? Did you force yourself to watch every second of the routine thinking somehow that self-inflicted torture would sway the figure skating Gods in his favor? Or, are you sane?
For the record: My mother’s the leave-the-room kind of crazy, and I’m the torture type — so you’re welcome, Evan. Lysacek became the first American to win men’s gold since Brian Boitano in 1988, and the first reigning world champion to stand atop the Olympic podium since Scott Hamilton in 1984. He wore a different costume than he had at the US Championships, and the studded snakes coiling around his torso made me think he wanted to send a message to Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko that he was about to strike. His venom was his grade of execution scores for his jumps, footwork, and spins; his fangs were the gelled-solid strands of hair that stood straight up when he spun. Plushenko was part cat landing jumps that were tilted — pause as you think back to Hamilton’s “raaaar!” — but Lysacek was polished both in the air and on the ice. (Watch Lysacek’s performance.) Plushenko’s tango (watch) had choreography I could’ve come up with — hip circles and thrusting, cocky-walking toward the judges, blown kisses, and, the running of his fingers down his mouth (I rewound, no tongue). He in no way deserved the gold even with the quad, but I would give him top marks for his performance at the medal ceremony. If only NBC had captured him taking Evan’s spot on the podium before jumping down to his. At least we got to see the look on his face when he was given his silver medal: It said it was burning his neck. You may hate him, but I kinda love him.
Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi held on for the bronze, recovering from an opening fall on his quad to deliver a solid, entertaining program that once again showed his ability to work a busy top half of a costume. (Watch.) He’s definitely one of the best showmen in amateur skating and gets a high grade of execution for his Edward Cullen-in-Twilight level hair. I hope we see him on the pro figure skating TV circuit along with Switzerland’s Stéphane Lambiel (4th), who was too tight in his free skate to be as dreamy as he was in the short. (Watch.) But he fought for every landing and honestly, I would tune in just to see him spin (and speak French).
After the long programs, I find myself really looking forward to 2014. I’m so happy that Canada’s 19-year-old Patrick Chan (5th) left the kiss and cry area smiling after a slightly disappointing Phantom of the Opera free skate. (Watch.) The crowd stayed with him, and I would personally like to applaud him for his minimal, effective use of sequins. In fact, he could’ve been the best-dressed. It was a costume, but it wasn’t an explosion. Then you’ve got France’s 19-year-old Florent Amodio (12th) and his marionette routine that wasn’t anywhere as dreadful as it sounded. (Watch.) Generally, I’m anti-face paint and dramatic pouting in skating, but he played to the audience, had an interesting mix of music, and kept me guessing (was not expecting the ‘N Sync “Bye Bye Bye” video vibe). I want to see whatever program he skates next. Just like I’m eager to see if Kazakhstan’s flexible 16-year-old Denis Ten (11th) grows into the heavage he showed during his Paso Doble. (Watch.)
My favorite of the young guns is Japan’s 20-year-old Takahiko Kozuka (8th) who, after skating to Jimi Hendrix in the short, opted for “Guitar Concerto” by Michael Kamen for the free skate. (Watch.) One of his heroes is Kurt Browning, and those are pieces of music he would have used (while wearing leather pants), so I approve. “Guitar Concerto” set him apart and totally fit him — it was artistic without feeling forced, unlike his countryman Nobunari Oda’s Charlie Chaplin salute. I appreciate that Oda’s coach wanted to give him a character to try to amp up his performance level, but it was a little too gimmicky unless you’ve got the charisma and footwork of Browning to back it up. But the pants did have a great shape when he jumped, and how parental did you feel when his skate lace broke near the end of his routine? (He looked younger than 22.) He had three minutes to fix it. DRA-MA! He finished 7th. (Watch.) That was almost as much of a nailbiter as wondering whether U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott’s nervewracked body would continue to betray him on the jumps. It looked like his short program nightmare had spawned a sequel, but he managed to pull his free skate together after a disastrous start and finish 9th. That’s something.
Last but not least, we get to Johnny Weir. His “Fallen Angel” was my favorite program to watch, the perfect combination of expressive music and movement, despite a stumble on a spin. (Watch.) The audience gave him a standing ovation (and a crown of roses, which he wore to the kiss and cry), but the judges apparently questioned the difficulty of the moves coming in and out of the jumps. He finished 6th, which the audience booed, but skating two inspired performances in Vancouver had to be a victory for Weir.
Your turn. What did you think of the free skate and the final results? Should we blame Scott Hamilton or me for jinxing the Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina (10th), who ran out of steam during his An American in Paris number? (Watch.) Have you viewed any of the performances we didn’t get to see on-air on NBCOlympics.com and want to recommend one? (Check out all the free skates here.) Belgium’s sexy Kevin van der Perren (17th) skated to the Robin Hood soundtrack, and his costume was exactly what you’d expect after his sequined skeleton short program. (Watch.)
Tune in for the start of the ice dancing competition tonight (NBC, 8 p.m. ET). The USA could be looking at its first-ever gold in the Russian-dominated discipline, and you know the editors of NBC’s packages will have fun with that after turning Plushenko into Ivan Drago. We’ll have a recap Saturday.
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Photo credit: Lysacek: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images; Plushenko Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images