TURIN, Italy – After a lackluster men's short program in terms of performances and crowd attendance, things turned around for the free skate.
Evgeni Plushenko skated well, but not with the same reckless abandon I've seen in the past, or even in the short program. That doesn't take away from him being a superior athlete and deserving champion; he was the clear winner. But credit should also go to Plushenko's coach Alexei Mishin. Mishin is brilliant. He knows so much about skating, his athletes and how to turn them into winners.
I'm glad Stephane Lambiel won the silver. He probably didn't have the performance he wanted, but he fought through his entire program. Bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle did too. Although all the top contenders made mistakes, Lambiel and Buttle never gave up. In the end, that made the difference. Both excel under the new system, and it will be fun to see how they develop in the next Olympic cycle.
Evan Lysacek had the performance of the night, jumping from tenth place to fourth. He had nothing to lose and let himself go. He was able to channel his anger after his disappointing short program and use it to fuel his free skate.
Johnny Weir, on the other hand, couldn't carry the momentum from his short program. I thought Weir skated well enough to medal, but the math didn't work out. Buttle was more performance driven and entertaining. He also had great transitions that tied his program together. Weir's program was more internally emotional, which might have been lost on the judges. I personally felt Weir had the more complete performance.
Matthew Savoie delivered another beautiful program. His presentation may be understated and quiet, but it stirs the emotions of the audience. Savoie reminds me of the legendary John Curry. His skating is pure, effortless and moving. He can be proud of his Olympic experience.
Brian Joubert gave the performance I expected him to. Joubert doesn't have the same refinement as Savoie, and tends to muscle his way through his program. He stiffens up even more when he's nervous. I hope he regains his competitive edge, because he has a lot to offer to the men's event.
Emanuel Sandhu had a meltdown, plain and simple. He gave up on his program. He needs to be disciplined when he trains. When you make a mistake out there, you just smile big and pretend like nothing happened. Otherwise, the mistakes will weigh on your mind. At my first national championship with Kyoko, we crashed on our opening triple twist. From there, things just snowballed. Because I was thinking about the opening mistake, I missed the next jump. Then all I could think about was making two mistakes – then three. It's not about the mistakes. It's about the whole program.
Daisuke Takahashi skated last and had the opportunity of a lifetime. With everyone before him skating flawed programs, he had good shot at the silver. The jump mistakes cost him a medal, but he has a bright future.
Watch for him and the other medalists to step up to the top of the world rankings after Plushenko and some of the other veterans are gone. With their Olympic experience, they will empower themselves and take it to the top.