MOSCOW (Reuters) - Olympic men’s figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek is not a “true champion,” his predecessor and Vancouver runner-up Yevgeny Plushenko has told Russian media.
Plushenko, hoping to become the first man in almost six decades to win back-to-back titles, lost to the American by 1.31 points on Thursday.
“You can’t be considered a true men’s champion without a quad,” the 27-year-old told Russian state television RTR.
Lysacek did not attempt a quadruple jump, considered the most difficult in figure skating, in either Tuesday’s short or Thursday’s free programs, instead wowing the judges with artistry and exquisite footwork.
“For someone to stand on top of the podium with the gold medal around his neck with just doing triple jumps, to me it’s not progress, it’s a regress because we’ve done triples 10 or even 20 years ago,” Plushenko said.
“Just doing nice transitions and being artistic is not enough because figure skating is a sport, not a show,” he said.
”Of all the men who had competed tonight, only two -- myself and (Japan‘s) Takahiro Kozuka (who finished eighth) -- were able to land a clean quad.
“Later, when I saw Kozuka I shook his hand and congratulated him, saying ‘Well done’. I also have a lot of respect for (Japan’s bronze medalist) Daisuke Takahashi for trying to attempt a quad. That’s a sign of a (future) champion.”
Plushenko, who came out of a 3-1/2-year retirement last month, said he was a victim of prejudicial judging.
“I did a great short program but didn’t get the marks I deserved. When I asked why they told me I was skating early and they had to retain top marks for the last group,” he said.
“Then, in the free program I was the last to skate, did everything clean and still didn’t get the marks. That’s prejudice. I thought I had done enough to get the gold but the judges gave it to someone else.”
Most Russian TV analysts and commentators said Plushenko was robbed of a deserved gold by the judges.
When Plushenko walked into the RTR studio in Vancouver, host Alexei Popov presented him with a symbolic medal.
“You already have one gold and one silver so here’s a platinum medal for you,” Popov told the skater. “You are the real champion.”
Another commentator called the decision scandalous, in the same mold as judging controversies at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
“We’d seen this before. In 2002 Irina Slutskaya unfairly was placed second in the short program so that Sarah Hughes could get a better shot at winning the gold,” Alexei Vasilyev said.
Russia’s Slutskaya, a favorite for the women’s title in Salt Lake City, finished second behind American Hughes.
Incensed by what they thought was poor and biased judging, the Russians filed a protest, arguing Slutskaya had skated as well as, if not better than, Hughes. It was rejected.
“So what if Slutskaya lost?” asked the commentator.
“Who now remembers Hughes? Similarly, in a few years’ time nobody will remember Lysacek while Plushenko would go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.”
Editing by Alison Wildey