VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The men's short program put into focus what had been a wide-open field Tuesday night, as three very different skaters separated from the pack and put themselves in position to take the gold.
The leader is the favorite, Russia's
The same formula was used by Japan's
The biggest casualties for the evening? That would be a tossup between France's
"I don't know what happened," the 24-year-old Abbott said afterward, looking as if he'd just emerged from 12 nights in a bat cave. "I didn't feel nervous, but on those two jumping passes, it just disintegrated."
Plushenko, who is attempting to become the first man to win back to back Olympic golds since
By contrast, Lysacek received just 27.10 points for his three jump passes, and Takahashi only 26.70. But Lysacek and Takahashi made up much of that ground by scoring much higher in their step sequences, and also getting higher program component (read: artistic =scores). Of special interest was Plushenko's transition mark, which had been the subject of considerable debate in the last couple of weeks after he admitted not even doing transitions after winning Europeans this year. The judging community, apparently, was paying attention. Plushenko earned just 6.80 points for his transitions in the short program, compared to 7.95 for Lysacek and 7.50 for Takahashi. Asked about the discrepancy,
That's Mishin's pitch. The other side of the coin is that Plushenko really hasn't changed much since he won in 2006, and his somewhat robotic, passionless style looks out of date. It's clear, judging from the mediocre marks he received for his spins and footwork, that Plushenko will need every jump in his arsenal -- he is talking about putting two quads in his long program -- to stay ahead of Lysacek and Takahashi on Thursday, assuming those two avoid major mistakes.
"It gets more difficult each Olympics," said Plushenko, who has a silver medal from 2002 to go with the gold he won in 2006. "It's not because I'm getting older. It's that you have to prove yourself all over again. Gold, silver, bronze, fourth place ... I will take any result."
He shrugged. "I'm already a part of history."