Russian Wins Gold in Men's Figure Skating

Russian Evgeni Plushenko competes in the men's free skate program, Feb. 16, 2006. i

Russian Evgeni Plushenko competes in the men's free skate program, Feb. 16, 2006. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images
Russian Evgeni Plushenko competes in the men's free skate program, Feb. 16, 2006.

Russian Evgeni Plushenko competes in the men's free skate program, Feb. 16, 2006.

Getty Images

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia won the gold medal in men's figure skating. His victory was expected, but the precipitous drop by American Johny Weir was not. Also, a Russian silver medalist in the biathlon tests positive for a banned substance and is kicked out of the Winter Olympics.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris with today's news from the Winter Olympics in Turin. Evgeni Plushenko of Russia is the Olympic champion in Men's Figure Skating. As expected, he won the gold medal today. He went into the free-skate program with a commanding lead. And while his victory was expected, the precipitous drop by American, Johnny Weir, was not. Weir was second after the short program, but dropped out of the medal chase. We're joined now from Turin by NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, what happened today in the men's competition?

TOM GOLDMAN: Well, as you mentioned, Michele, Evgeni Plushenko won, as everyone expected, looking very imperious on the ice. What struck me most; I mean, he skated, he had a commanding performance, but what struck me most was his ending; you know, where a skater usually holds their final pose. He didn't even bother with it. He got to his final move and just kind of stepped out of that final move, shook his fists like, yeah, I got it, let's give me the gold medal. I've won three world titles, five European titles, a Silver medal of 2002 Olympics, now I got my big prize, so let's get this over with.

NORRIS: He was that good?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, he was. You know, as you say he went into the free-skate with a huge lead, Johnny Weir, American Johnny Weir said that Plushenko would have to fall three times for someone to slip by. He didn't fall once.

NORRIS: And so no medals for the American skaters?

GOLDMAN: No, there were none, and before I talk about Johnny Weir, probably the positive story for Americans is Even Lysacek. He really skated a poor short program and was in tenth place. He said today that he actually considered dropping out today on his way to the venue because he was sick with the flu. He didn't practice yesterday because of dizziness and an upset stomach. And he was quoted as saying, I've dreamed about the Olympics for upwards of a decade, and it didn't include coming down with the stomach flu, having needles in my arm or falling in the short program. I learned the Olympics are about courage and going on and finishing what you started. And let me tell you, he finished really strong.

After that poor short program, he skated wonderfully today in the free. He landed eight triple jumps, and, as we said, vaulted from tenth position to fourth, so he just missed the medals, but he had a wonderful performance.

NORRIS: I would like to ask you about Johnny Weir. I understand that his disappointment today was quite obvious.

GOLDMAN: Oh, it really was, and this is really kind of a stunner. I mean, after the short program, where he was in second place, he was poised for, you know, people were saying he was going to be the silver medalist behind Plushenko. He just didn't skate well tonight. He was his usual flowing and graceful self with his blue chiffon fluttering, but it was slow and kind of cautious looking. He landed his jumps, but he was leaning on a lot of them. And what was weird, it appeared at one point, he even might have left a jump completely out. He looked like he was on the approach to a jump, you know, where they're skating backwards. And then he just changed direction for another long approach, what appeared, so there was this long time with him where he wasn't really doing anything on the ice. And I think this showed up. He had a very low technical score, he was second after the short program, as we said. After the free-skate, he dropped to fourth and, ultimately, finished in fifth place.

And after he got his marks, he got up and stormed out of the kiss and cry area. And I should add that his quote was interesting. He blamed transportation. He said, I missed the bus, they changed the schedule. It was every 10 minutes, today it was every half hour. I was late getting to the venue and never caught up. I never felt comfortable in this building. I didn't feel my inner peace. I didn't feel my aura. Inside, I was black.

NORRIS: Now, Tom, aside from figure skating, there was a doping disqualification today. What can you tell us about that?

GOLDMAN: Today, yes. The first athlete to test positive at the games and get kicked out. This was 30-year-old Olga Pyleva from Russia, very accomplished in the sport of biathlon, which is the combination of cross-country skiing and shooting a rifle. She won a gold medal and a bronze medal in 2002. She won the silver medal Monday in the 15 kilometer individual event in biathlon, but that was all taken away today because she tested positive for a banned stimulant after her race on Monday. So she is the first to actually test positive here and be kicked out.

NORRIS: Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Michele.

NORRIS: NPR's Tom Goldman, speaking to us from the Winter Games in Turin.

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