VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Evan Lysacek brought down the champion.
Lysacek became the first U.S. man to win the Olympic gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988, shocking everyone -- maybe even himself -- by upsetting defending champion Evgeni Plushenko on Thursday night. Plushenko came out of retirement with the sole purpose of making a little history of his own with a second straight gold medal.
Plushenko, the last to skate, held up both index fingers when he finished, as if to say, "Was there ever any question?" As it turned out, yes.
And it wasn't really that close.
When Plushenko's scores were posted, someone in the arena screamed out, "Evan Lysacek has won the gold!" Backstage, surrounded by longtime coach Frank Carroll and pairs gold medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, Lysacek threw back his head in disbelief and utter elation.
Lysacek, the reigning world champion, finished with a career-best 257.67, 1.31 ahead of the Russian. Daisuke Takahashi won the bronze, the first Japanese man to win a figure skating medal at the Olympic Games.
Lysacek was the first of the big guns to skate in the last group, and he played it safe for the first three minutes of his 4 1/2-minute program. He had long decided against doing a quad, not wanting to risk further damage to the left foot he'd broken last spring. But everything he did was technically perfect. His jumps were done with the control and dependability of a fine Swiss timepiece, and his spins were so well-centered you could see the tight little circle of his tracings clear across the ice.
He didn't skate with all his usual flair and charisma. But when he landed his last jump, a double axel, Lysacek let loose. His face was so expressive budding actors should take note, and he fixed the judges with a kingly glare during his circular steps. Fans were roaring their approval as he finished his final spin.
The last note of his music was still fading when Lysacek pumped his fists and screamed, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!" He clapped his hands and skated to center ice, throwing his arms out wide to the crowd and blowing kisses. He put his arm around Carroll, who had yet to coach a gold medalist despite a list of past and present skaters that read's like a Who's Who on Ice.