Plushenko sets the standard

Russian's 90.66 is short-program record

Weir, Lambiel are 11 behind

Figure skating

Winter Olympics

February 15, 2006|By JOHN JEANSONNE | JOHN JEANSONNE,NEWSDAY

TURIN, Italy -- They talk about "clean" programs in figure skating and, goodness knows, Johnny Weir likes cleanliness.

Annoyed by the dust at the athletes village here, Weir mopped his own room before appearing for the men's Olympic short program last night and, once there, he admired the fact that things don't get any cleaner than the routine produced by Russian Evgeny Plushenko.

As for his own performance, which came almost two hours after Plushenko's in an long, long evening of short programs by 30 skaters, Weir said he would have liked it to be "a little more polished."

Some more housekeeping: Plushenko's score of 90.66 is a short-program record in the sport's new scoring system, with Plushenko having piled up a whopping 13.86 points with his big opening move, the quadruple toe-triple toe combination jump.

Going into tomorrow night's long program, Weir, the 21-year-old three-time U.S. champion, is sitting in second place at 80.00, followed by Switzerland's Stephane Lambiel at 79.04. Americans Matt Savoie and Evan Lysacek are eighth (69.15) and 10th (67.55), respectively, while Canadian Emanuel Sandhu, expected to contend for a medal, stumbled to seventh (69.75).

Plushenko came and went as if late for dinner, his clockwork skating an impressive example of unhurried speed. Not only were his jumps precise and quick - a triple axel and triple lutz to go with the earlier combination - but he also showed off a blurring footwork than an old navy man in the audience said reminded him of darting moves to avoid torpedoes.

Then Plushenko, without comment, hurried off to his rented apartment nearby, having been ordered by coach Alexei Mishin not to stay in the athletes village and risk enduring the late-night celebration of just-victorious Russian pairs - as happened four years ago in Salt Lake City.

As far as Weir was concerned, there is no catching Plushenko, 23. The idea of making up 11 points in the long program would be a "maybe," Weir said, "if it weren't Plushkenko. I've said over and over and over again, we're skating for silver and bronze. Look at his score. He made as much in one program as some do in an entire competition.

"I'm not conceding; I'm just being realistic."

Lambiel, looking at virtually the same deficit, was intent on "fighting as much as I can and we'll see what happens. Pluschenko is very strong and a very nice skater, but I'm working to beat him and beat the other skaters. I just have to work, and if he beats me, I have to accept that."

At least those fellows were in the mix for a medal, while Lysacek, who had been the most consistent American male for most of this season until the national championships, crashed on his opening triple axel and spent his time in the kiss and cry area with his head in his hands.

"I had a great early-morning workout, but now it's almost midnight," Lysacek said, "and I was sitting in my room all day thinking, with this building and building and building, and I just came out of the gate running, which isn't the way to do this. I usually do deep breathing to slow me down, but I couldn't get deep enough inside my head to reverse what was going on.

"I'm extremely disappointed, but, more than that, I'm shocked."

Weir, on the other hand, could celebrate a bit with the short program out of the way. "It's over; it's done," he said. "It's Valentine's Day. I can go buy myself a rose and some chocolate now."

John Jeansonne writes for Newsday.

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