By Sonia Oxley
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Yevgeny Plushenko accused his rivals of not moving with the times but Evan Lysacek cracked the code to the new scoring system to win Olympic gold and show it was the Russian who was stuck in the past.
Talk of the high-value quadruple jump dominated the run-up to the men's competition in Vancouver, with skaters split over whether the maneuver was worth the risk of not landing it.
Plushenko said you could not be a champion without one, while American Lysacek and Canada's Patrick Chan were confident skaters could rely on imaginative spins, creative footwork and solid landings on non-quad jumps to rack up the points.
"If it was a jumping competition, there'd be no music, they'd give you 10 seconds to do your best jump and that would be it," Lysacek told a news conference on Friday, stroking the gold he won with the best all-round exhibition but no quad.
"But it's about the performance, it's what makes us so unique and so emotional for an audience to watch.
"I have for several years worked on the quad and other jumps, that pales in the amount of time it takes to work on spins and footwork," added Lysacek, who dropped the quad from his program after a foot injury last year.
"I don't know why some people are so hung up on one particular element. That's one step out of a four minute 40 second free skate. Each and every step we take from the starting pose to the ending pose is accumulating points."
An open-ended scoring format awarded by a panel of anonymous judges was introduced after a scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, where a French judge admitted to being pressured to award more marks to a Russian couple in the pairs event.
After decades of the "perfect 6.0" score, skaters such as Plushenko who grew up with the old system are still struggling to understand how the marks add up.
Whereas before, one performance was marked subjectively against another, nowadays there is a checklist for the value of every jump, spin, transition as well as a grade of execution mark which reflects how well each element was performed.
"With the old system, I would have won," Plushenko told reporters. "The new system is a little different. The quad is not valued anymore.
"Apparently this is what figure skating needs today. I thought it was enough and it should have been enough to win.
"I think we need to change the judging system. Now it's not men's figure skating, it's dancing."
The past two world championships have been won without a quad, suggesting it is not as important as some think.
"Anyone who is arguing with those judges scores (in Vancouver) doesn't really understand the system because they did a great job using the new judging system," said Lysacek.
Anyone still grappling with the scoring system should seek advice from Asian skaters, who seem to have mastered it.
Daisuke Takahashi took Japan's first men's figure skating medal (bronze) on Thursday, while compatriot Shizuka Arakawa won Asia's first figure skating gold in 2006. Chinese couple Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won the pairs event in Vancouver.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)