Reigning Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko has served notice to the rest of the figure skating competition.
Like Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao in the pairs competition, Plushenko skated early and posted a score that will be hard to beat. His 90.85 mark is just shy of the record 91.30 he set at last month’s European Championships.
Skating to Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” the 27-year-old Russian opened with a big quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, followed by a triple axel and a triple Lutz. The jump content he laid down is the hardest being attempted by any man in the competition. The U.S. men – Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek, and Johnny Weir – will be doing triple-triple combinations, which have a lower base value.
As well as Plushenko skated, his performance can be beat. His two footwork sequences were marked level 3. Other male skaters, notably Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, have achieved the more difficult level 4.
There’s also wiggle room in the program components (formerly known as presentation mark). Though Plushenko’s routine earned 8.00s (out of a perfect 10) for interpretation, performance, and skating skills, he earned only a 6.80 for transitions.
Plushenko’s programs are front-loaded, meaning he’ll rattle off jump after jump without much in between except basic skating. This is where the rest of the field can catch him. It’s unlikely that anyone will match him technically, but skaters who balance their jumps with choreography and difficult transitions may catch him on the second mark.
The rest of the competitors, including the three Americans, will skate in the final two groups.