Lysacek upsets Plushenko for gold

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Lysacek upsets Plushenko for gold

Evan Lysacek of the US performs during the men's free skating competition at the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Thursday. [Reuters]

Lysacek became the first US man to win the Olympic gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988, shocking everyone - maybe even himself - by upsetting defending champion Evgeni Plushenko on Thursday night. Plushenko came out of retirement with the sole purpose of making a little history of his own with a second straight gold medal.

The last to skate. Plushenko held up both index fingers when he finished, as if to say, "Was there ever any question?" As it turned out, yes.

And it wasn't really that close.

When Plushenko's scores were posted, someone in the arena screamed, "Evan Lysacek has won the gold!" Backstage, surrounded by longtime coach Frank Carroll and pairs gold medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, Lysacek threw back his head in disbelief and utter elation.

"I could have stood up there for hours and thought about every moment of training that I was thinking, 'God, what if one day?'" Lysacek said. "And it kept me going and it pushed me."

The reigning world champion finished with a career-best 257.67, 1.31 ahead of the Russian. Daisuke Takahashi won the bronze, the first Japanese man to win a figure skating medal at the Olympic Games.

Lysacek, whose world title was the first by a U.S. man since 1996, looked almost dazed when he heard the first notes of the "Star-Spangled Banner." But as he watched the flag rise, he broke into a wide grin.

"I saw that American flag go up and I couldn't believe it was for me," Lysacek said.

Someone handed him a U.S. flag as he left the medals podium to take on his victory lap, and he waved it a few times before twirling it above his head like a lasso. As he skated around the arena, he held a bouquet aloft in his right hand and clutched his gold medal in the left. No way anyone was going to take this away from him.

Especially not Plushenko.

Much had been made about of Plushenko's transition scores, the mark given for the steps connecting the elements, as well as his other component scores - think of the old artistic marks. But those didn't cost him the medal.

Lysacek edged Plushenko on the mark for their technical elements - jumps, spins and footwork. That's the score where the three-time Olympic medalist and three-time world champion has pretty much made his trademark. And Lysacek won despite not doing a quadruple jump.

"If the Olympic champion doesn't know how to jump a quad, I don't know," Plushenko said. "Now it's not men's figure skating, now it's dancing."

But Lysacek makes no apologies for what he does - and doesn't - do. He's done the quad before, but it puts a lot of stress on the left foot that he broke last year. He originally planned to do the quad here, but after feeling pain in the foot again after last month's U.S. championships, he decided it wasn't worth the risk of getting hurt and having to miss the games.

"If it was a jumping competition, they'd give you 10 seconds to go do your best jump. But it's about four minutes and 40 seconds of skating and performing from start to finish," Lysacek said. "That was my challenge tonight, and I feel like I did quite well."

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