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OLYMPICS

Majestic Plushenko eyes gold

By Pritha Sarkar

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A majestic Yevgeny Plushenko signaled to the world that the champion was back in town as he electrified the crowd with a dazzling short program in the men's Olympic competition on Tuesday.

World champion Evan Lysacek could not stop the tears running down his cheeks after snatching second place with an emotionally charged performance to Stravinsky's Firebird which earned him 90.30 and Japan's Daisuke Takahashi scored 90.25.

"I had some pressure coming in as the reigning world champion, I felt it," said American Lysacek, who wore a striking Vera Wang outfit with feathers lining the cuffs.

"I also have a little bit of a monkey on my back after my short program in Torino four years ago. To be able to go out there and finally silence that felt good."

But his performance could not outdo Plushenko who was the only competitor to perform the quad cleanly.

The Russian showman had more than 11,000 pairs of eyes glued to his every move as he began his 2-1/2 minute program with a high-flying quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination.

Plushenko, who took to the ice in a shimmering black and silver lycra outfit featuring a plunging V-cut down to his chest, drew thunderous applause as he effortlessly flew through the rest of his program.

As soon as he completed his final dizzying spin, he kissed his gloved knuckles and took a couple of exaggerated marching steps before drawing an imaginary sword high into the air and returning it firmly into its sheath.

Unsurprisingly, he was a cut above all his rivals.

"I'm in history already because I'm back. I didn't skate for three and a half years, and then I won the Europeans, I won the (Russian) nationals, I won a grand prix and I didn't skate bad today," Plushenko said.

The field featured two other world champions, Stephane Lambiel and Joubert, but no one could match Plushenko's show-stopping performance.

BLACK BOOTS

Spin-master Lambiel disappeared into a blur in his knee-high black boots when he finished his beautifully choreographed routine to Rossini's Wilhelm Tell with a fast-paced spin.

Going into Thursday's free program, Lambiel was fifth with 84.63 points -- and still has a chance of getting gold as he trails Plushenko by 6.22 -- while Joubert blew his chances after a fall on the lutz left him 18th with 68.00.

"It's a mistake I never make... I just can't do it at the Olympic Games," said 2007 world champion, who also suffered a meltdown in Turin four years ago.

It was not just the skating that caught people's attention on Tuesday.

American fashionista Johnny Weir usually likes making a bold statement with his outlandish costumes but his laced up pink and black sheer bodice was given a run for its money by Urbas Gregor.

The little-know Slovenian looked like he could have raided his girlfriend's wardrobe for his sparkling pink and black outfit complete with a skirt edging which twirled around every time he launched into one of his jumps.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)