VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Time and again, Evan Lysacek was grilled Friday about Evgeni Plushenko slamming Lysacek’s performance in the men’s figure-skating finals.

There was Plushenko’s quibbling about the quad, and government leaders in Russia crying foul over the finish. Time and again, Lysacek sidestepped the bickering.

Nothing he said would be better than the answer hanging around his neck.

”All I know is he’s been really positive to me and been a really consistent skater through the years, and I’ve tried to learn from that,” Lysacek said, still basking in the glow of his Olympic gold medal. ”I guess I’m a little disappointed someone who I saw as my role model would take a hit at me in one of my most special moments.

”It’s tough to lose. It’s not easy, especially when you think, no matter what, you’re going to win. It’s a really tough pill to swallow. We’ll just try not to take it out of context and give him the benefit of the doubt. And congratulations to him on his third Olympic medal.”

Lysacek became the first American man since Brian Boitano to win the Olympic gold, taking down Plushenko, the reigning champion.

Though Lysacek is the world champion, it was an upset the likes of which figure skating rarely sees. Plushenko, who ended a three-year retirement with the sole goal of winning gold, hadn’t finished anywhere but first since the 2004 European championships. He was the defending Olympic gold medalist, a silver medalist in 2002, and a three-time world champion.

And Plushenko had the all-important quad, the four-revolution jump that’s been a must-have for every Olympic men’s champion since Ilia Kulik in 1998.

”Quad is quad. If the Olympic champion doesn’t know how to jump the quad, I don’t know,” Plushenko sniffed. ”Now it’s not men’s figure skating, it’s dancing. That’s my point.”

Yet Lysacek beat the Russian handily. Lysacek’s career-best 257.67 points was 1.31 better than Plushenko. Even more grating to the Russian’s camp, Lysacek beat Plushenko on the technical mark, the score for jumps, spins and footwork that’s practically been his personal property.

Though Lysacek said Plushenko congratulated him and Plushenko himself said later he was satisfied with his silver — only one male figure skater, Gillis Grafstrom of Sweden, has more Olympic medals — others weren’t quite so restrained. This is, after all, figure skating, and no Olympics is complete without at least one juicy catfight.

One broadcaster at RTR, the state-owned Russian television, likened the result to the 2002 pairs scandal in Salt Lake City, where the judging shenanigans were so bad that duplicate gold medals were awarded. Another called Plushenko ”the real champion.” Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin weighed in, sending Plushenko a message Friday saying his performance was worth gold.

But Lysacek refused to join in the war of words.

”All I could do is stay true to myself and go in with the formula I believed in and believed would work for me,” he said.

”Each step wasn’t planned to win this gold medal. It was to have a personal victory and to have the skate of my lifetime at the most important moment. My goal and my plan was to skate the way I skated and leave the rest to the judges.”

Although Lysacek has done the quad, he doesn’t land it with the same consistency as Plushenko or others. He can’t train it into the ground, either, because of the stress it puts on the left foot he broke last year. When he started feeling pain in the foot again after last month’s U.S. championships, Lysacek decided it wasn’t worth the risk of missing the games.

He decided to pack the rest of the program with high-level steps, gorgeous spins and difficult entrances to his jumps.

”It was just about accumulating points from start to finish,” Lysacek said.


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