Something special (cont.)
Posted: Sunday January 28, 2007 3:49PM; Updated: Monday January 29, 2007 1:10PM
Skating to Carmen, Lysacek opened his program with a quad-toe, triple-toe combination that was, well, Evgeny Plushenko-like. It was the first time Lysacek had ever landed a quad in competition, never mind a quad-triple, and the thrill of it nearly fried his brain. "For a split second I was happy about it and then I realized I was only 15 seconds into my program and still had eight more triples to go," he said.
No problem. He reeled them off like a man skipping rope: triple-Axel, triple-toe; triple-flip-double toe-double loop ... you get the idea. He couldn't miss. The program built, the crowd clapped with growing enthusiasm, and Lysacek's straight-line step sequence brought down the house. When it was over he collapsed to his knees while the crowd leapt to its feet. This was an audience that all week long would have applauded the Zamboni driver. Now they truly had something to savor. The rafters literally shook.
Enter Johnny Weir. A hothouse flower in the best of times, he now had good reason to quake. The buzz Lysacek had left in the Spokane Arena might have given Brian Urlacher pause. "It was very, very difficult to go out there after Evan skated," he later said. "I heard 90-something for his first mark, and wondered, 'What the hell did he do?'"
91.13 to be exact. That was his element score. Lysacek's component score was 78.76, for a total of 169.89 -- a stunning 19.45 points higher than any American had ever scored at a free skate at Nationals.
Weir needed to be perfect -- better than he'd ever been. That dream died quickly as his first element, a planned triple Axel-triple toe-double toe was truncated into a plain triple Axel. It went downhill from there. He two-footed the landing on his lone quad, doubled a planned triple-triple, fell on a triple loop, and popped another triple Axel combination. Somewhere in there, Weir also gave up. He wound up finishing third, behind both Lysacek and 23-year-old Ryan Bradley from St. Joseph, Mo.
"Evan didn't just beat me," Weir later said, "He kicked my ass. I kept closing my eyes thinking everything would go away. It was the most difficult performance of my career."
For Lysacek it was the performance of a lifetime and evidence that he has the capability to win a world championship, something no American man has done since Todd Eldredge in 1996. "I was at the hotel earlier watching Tiger Woods, and I tried to be like him, all tunnel-vision and focus," Lysacek said.
The only negative to the evening was that, because of the lateness of the hour, so few Americans saw Lysacek's seminal performance live. "It does bother me that it went off so late," the newly crowned champion said. "I guess [ABC/ESPN executives] figure people want to watch the little girls skate."
At this competition, it was the U.S. men who stole the show.