Photo courtesy of David Carmichael via Wikipedia, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.
As the 2010 Winter Olympics come to a close, I think it is fitting to make a tribute to my new favorite athlete, Evgeni Plushenko.
Plushenko, of course, is the Russian figure skater who narrowly lost out on the gold medal to American Evan Lysacek. He has faced lots of undeserved negative press coverage because of his criticism of the result. Although I am American, I agree with Plushenko that he deserved the gold. Even if I did not, however, I would still admire his self-confidence and courage to voice his true opinions.
Plushenko (now infamously) said, “Quad is quad. If the Olympic champion doesn’t know how to jump the quad, I don’t know…Now it’s not men’s figure skating, it’s dancing. That’s my point.”
During the medals ceremony, he playfully stepped onto the winner’s spot on the podium before going to the second place spot. For a few days, his website called his silver medal a “platinum medal.”
While Lysacek is undoubtedly an excellent skater and an extremely nice person, I think Plushenko has a point. His program, which unlike Lysacek’s had a quadruple jump, was more challenging, just as artistic, and just as well-choreographed, in my admittedly un-expert opinion. He had no mistakes, except for slightly shaky landings on a couple of jumps, which was comparable to what Lysacek did.
But even if you think that Lysacek’s gold was deserved (which you have every right to), you have no right to attack Plushenko or his comments.
Plushenko has been called “impudent,” “self-serving,” and “a contender for worst Olympics loser.” He has been accused of “trying to bully himself into a figure skating gold,” and of “tarnishing his reputation by acting like a spoiled sport.” And that’s just in the actual articles. Readers’ comments, naturally, are much worse.
I think all of this criticism is unjustified. What I like about Plushenko is that I can relate to him. If I lost a competition (especially if I lost unfairly), I would feel the same way that he does, as would many other people. I admire Plushenko for having the guts to actually express his anger and indignation. Too many athletes, actors, politicians, and other public figures seem to care so much about what other people think that they come across as phony.
For example, Lysacek said about his program, “Each step wasn’t planned to win this gold medal. It was to have a personal victory and to have the skate of my lifetime at the most important moment.”
With all due respect to Lysacek, it’s hard to believe that someone would compete in the Olympics but care more about achieving a personal victory than winning the gold medal.
Lysacek seems very polished and polite but I find Plushenko more charismatic because he is true to himself instead of trying to please everyone. Lysacek is your typical nice, humble, all-American guy; he doesn’t really stand out. Plushenko has his own style and his own persona. His choreography, skating abilities, mannerisms, and even his hairdo are more memorable than Lysacek’s. He is genuine, brave, and confident. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Before these Olympics, I didn’t follow figure skating too closely and didn’t have an opinion on who should win. But now I am definitely a fan of Plushenko, and I look forward to seeing him compete at the World Championships next month and hopefully the 2014 Olympics. Go Plushenko!