His stock went up Thursday when he skated the best performance of his career to win the Olympic gold medal, ending an 18-year reign of Soviet and Russian skaters in men’s figure skating. Russian Evgeni Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic Champion, finished 1.31 points out of first-place despite winning the short program.
“I couldn’t have asked for much more than that,” he said. “To get a personal best in the most important moment of my life – you dream about it.”
Lysacek also won the 2009 World Championship in March.
“Worlds rejuvenated my love for skating, but it also confirmed to me that the most important thing about figure skating is the daily training that goes on at home,” Lysacek said. “This year I’ve worked harder than I ever have before to prepare for this competition. The whole season has been building toward this and waiting for that clean skate the whole season, and to get it in most important moment is pretty special.”
Daisuke Takahashi of Japan won the bronze medal with a score of 247.23. Three-time U.S. Champion Johnny Weir finished sixth, one slot lower than 2006, with a score of 238.87. Two-time U.S. Champion Jeremy Abbott, who was 15th after the short program, jumped to ninth place with a final score of 218.96.
“I made myself proud,” said Weir, who had his free skate score greeted by boos from the crowd at Pacific Coliseum. “I came back and skated again this season for all the right reasons. Maybe I didn’t win a medal at the Olympics, but I gave a darn good performance.”
Lysacek is the first American to win the men’s gold since Brian Boitano won at the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games. He also becomes the first reigning World Champion to win the Olympic gold medal since American Scott Hamilton did it back in 1984.
“To be mentioned in the same sentence as people I’ve idolized like Scott and Brian is amazing,” the Napeville, Ill., native said. He is the 13th skater from the United States to be crowned an Olympic Champion, with the last being Sarah Hughes’ victory at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“It was a tough day,” said Lysacek, who is the first Olympic gold medalist for Hall of Fame coach Frank Carroll. “I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I got here. My coach was by my side the whole day telling me what to think. I was nervous, but about two hours before the competition, I thought, ‘What am I nervous for? I just have to do what I’ve done every day.'”
Photo courtesy of Leah Adams
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