|The Russians have been at the top of men's figure skating for quite some time now and Evgeni Plushenko may just be class of the bunch.|
Plushenko proved once again Thursday night why he is maestro of men's figure skating and he can finally add an Olympic gold medal to his already crowded mantle.
The 23-year-old native of St. Petersburg was heads and shoulders above the rest of the world this week in Torino. It started Tuesday night in the short program when Plushenko posted an amazing personal best score of 90.66 and it continued Thursday when his 167.67 was another career mark and, once again, the top score of the night. In the end, his combined score of 258.33 was over 27 points higher then silver medal winner Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland.
"I'm so happy with my numbers, I did my job, it's not the best what I did today. But it's quite enough," Plushenko remarked after sealing up the gold medal.
The runaway gold medal victory gives Plushenko a bit of redemption. He had a bad taste in his mouth after getting silver at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games following a loss to countryman Alexei Yagudin.
Yet, many realized that Plushenko was only 19 at the time of the 2002 Winter Games and that his best days were still ahead. But, nobody could have predicted how dominating the young Russian would become.
Since the Salt Lake Games, Plushenko has lost just twice in in major international competition. And in addition to his newly won Olympic gold medal, Plushenko can also claim three world championships and five European titles.
"Now I have all the titles and I'm really very happy," said Plushenko.
With all that hardware it's easy to make the mistake that Plushenko hasn't encountered any hardships since Salt Lake. In fact, just last year at the world championships, Plushenko was forced to withdraw from the competition because of a nagging groin injury and Lambiel was crowned champion. It was a problem that would later require surgery.
"I worked a lot," said Plushenko. "It was really very hard because of my operation and my dream came true."
The scary thing for the rest of men's figure skating is that Plushenko doesn't seem ready to quit now that he's won everything there is to win. He has said that he wants to reclaim his world championship title and is evening dropping hints at making another gold medal run four years from now.
"I think about the next Olympics now," he says. "I'm only 23, in four years I'll only be 27. It's a good age for a skater. I love skating, I love winning. It's my life."
Who knows what can happen in four years time? But, if Plushenko is in Vancouver in 2010 it would be hard to bet against him.
- Dan Di Sciullo, Contributing Olympics Editor