Saturday, February 20, 2010

The new cold war

The mens event is over which makes me really sad – it means I don’t get to say Daisuke Takahashi on a regular basis. (DICE-kay TAHK-ah-hashi). Sigh.

It was a phenomenal night of skating. I’m not the biggest Evan Lysacek fan on the block – I like him and all, but I sometimes don’t get his hype. When people talk about him being so marketable, I genuinely don’t see it. I used to like him a lot more – like back in 2006. He gave that lights out performance in Tornio during the free skate after being hooked up to IVs all day and I was cheering like mad for him. But as he began to win more medals, something started to change. He didn’t have that same unbridled passion and enthusiasm in his performances anymore. It became so much more rehearsed. The man trains like Rocky so it might be understandable but I miss it.

He’s also keenly aware of his image and saying the ‘right thing’ – I want him to just say stupid stuff sometimes. He used to date Tanith and he actually still wears a ring that she gave him. Now Johnny Weir, his arch-nemesis, is rooming with her in the Olympic Village. Surely that’s chapping his hide a bit? Can’t he at least say something borderline raunchy about the whole situation?? I don’t have anything PG I can write down but surely Evan could come with something.

I really didn’t think Evan was going to take this gold medal. Skating is very political and there’s been a lot of talk about how Plushenko was going to get the men’s gold in exchange for a north American team getting the dance gold. (remember the salt lake pairs scandal – they had basically said gold for pairs and in exchange, gold for france in dance – it was the French judge who came forward and admitted to cheating) Yea – it still happens. Or at least, people still whisper about it.

Plus, Plushy’s jumps are typically outstanding. And because his jumps are so strong, and because he’s Russian and the judges favor him, he usually has such a commanding lead after the short that it’s almost impossible to catch him in the free skate. But this time, Lysacek and Takahashi were less than a point behind him so Plushenko was in the strange position of actually having to skate clean. He normally has such a huge margin that if he makes a few mistakes, he can still win. That’s a lot less pressure to handle.

So he comes back to Olympic competition to get the gold medal after 3 years of not competing at all, he heads into the free skate with only a three competitions under his belt this season and all of a sudden HAS to lay down a perfect skate to win. I can’t remember him ever skating under that kind of pressure. I think it unnerved him a bit.

And GOOD! Bout time. Dude is cockier than a hen house. Nice, funny guy - but the complete lack of humility drives me nuts sometimes.

And ironically - he basically lost the gold on his jumps. His strength.

You get points for the difficulty of the jump but then you also get this mark called “grade of execution” and that’s how well you do the jump. So if he does a quad-triple and that’s worth 9 points or something, he’s also getting points added on or subtracted for his execution of that jump. Normally he gets positive grades of execution, meaning he racks up even more points (up to 3 more points) but this time, he didn't manage to grab many additional points. Evan did receive extra points for perfectly executing his jumps – so even though Plush technically did harder stuff, what Even did, he did it better.

I spent most of the day dealing with the fallout of the whole Plushenko vs Lysacek debacle because it somehow turned into the new cold war with even Steven Colbert commenting on it to Bob Costas.

(btw - NBC was looking for their Olympic star? Well, they found it in Colbert! His appearances with Bob Costas have been killing everyone here. The dude is brilliant. Did you catch the video where he climbs into the NBC "fireplace"? Colbert met Johnny Weir in the green room before going and we have some hilarious photos of Johnny and Steven together - hopefully they make a gallery of that stuff soon so I can share it)

Uh - back to skating..... So even Putin chimed in saying that Plushenko had the gold medal winning performance. And because of that, we were scrambling trying to find info from Russian papers all day, scanning the wires frantically for news, having all the russian speaking people in the room checking out russian websites, etc. It was nuts. (It's also crazy to me that my life was directly affected today by something that PUTIN said)

This is the article I spent about 5 hours working on today It explains the breakdown of what happened between Lysacek and Plushenko's marks and why Lysacek had the edge (in what I think is fairly simple to understand logic)

I'm actually really proud of this little piece. I normally just write fun, fluffy stuff for them but this one took actual brain power and gasp - thinking! (how dare they) I can't tell you how many times I had to rewrite portions of this because we just couldn't work out exactly how Lysacek beat Plushenko. I mean - besides the obvious point that Plushenko kind of stank it up. We had research room notes and about 10 pages of compete judges marks - and it still took forever. The judging system is so complicated these days that it takes an actuary to make any sense of it. Even Dick Button was confused. (but that's normal)

It's frustrating to me that here I am, this die hard skating nutjob and it's taking me forever to figure out the exact logic behind the marks. If I'm this confused, how in the world does a causal fan ever make sense of this sport? It makes me sad for our sport - we're totally alienating fans by turning triple salchows into rocket science.

Basically - it was a battle of tricks versus mastery. Plush did tricks but they weren’t perfect. Evan demonstrated perfect technique and mastery and the judges rewarded him for it.

Of course – this IS skating and plush somehow managed to receive almost the same amount of points for all the other stuff he did - spins, footwork, transitions, etc – as Evan. Which, bogus. But whatever. At the end of the day, the judges got it right.

Of course, this is really bad news for ice dance. The Russians lost the pairs gold medal for the first time in 12 Olympics. They have won every men’s gold medal since Brian Boitano. They’re going to be seriously, seriously ticked off right now. And I’m sure very hung-over as they probably were drowning their sorrow with straight vodka last night.

Their Russian ice dance team just plain sucks this year -Domnina and Shabalin. He’s coming off a really bad injury and is only at about half strength right now. Their original dance is set to this aboriginal music and they skate in pseudo-black face along with terrible, terrible, borderline offensive aboriginal costumes. They claim to have spent “hours” researching the theme, music, costume etc so that it would be authentic… yea right – looks more like they googled “Australian aboriginal”, checked out one image and said done and done. The aboriginal people of Australia are outraged and have raised a massive stink about how terrible and offensive the dance is.

And now the Russians are in first place after the compulsory round of ice dance... sniff, sniff, does someone smell a scandal???

On a totally unrelated note - after the men's free last night, I was leaving the IBC and I happened to be walking right behind Plushenko and his posse. They were all gesturing madly and Plushy was speaking in pretty heated tones. I wasn't 'trying' to stalk him but he kept going in the direction I needed to be headed so I ended up walking behind them for a few blocks. The whole way, Plush is still talking like he's all fired up and saying lots of fast russian things.

They stop at a garage to get into what looked like a tinted window Escalade ( but of course, when you're the russian mob, you travel in style) And as I pass I hear some parting philosophical words from Plushenko...


Guess he was just hungry.

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