By Pritha Sarkar
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Winning the Olympic gold medal without performing a quadruple jump is like going back to the dark ages of men's figure skating, Yevgeny Plushenko's coach said on Saturday.
In the build-up to the Vancouver Games, a raging debate about the importance of the quad has broken out and split Europe and North America.
"Modern figure skating without the quad is going back to the time before (Elvis) Stojko and (Alexei) Urmanov (who competed in the 1990s)," Plushenko's famed coach Alexei Mishin told reporters on Saturday as the Olympic champion's camp finally broke their silence in Vancouver.
"If you look at the Olympic motto 'faster, higher, stronger', the quad represents exactly that," added the Russian, who has mentored three of the last four men's Olympic gold medalists.
"A positive grade of execution can make up for a quad. This is going to be my strategy. I looked back at the score sheets (last year), saw where I gained points and saw they were more valuable than the quad," he said.
"For me the quad is a risk. Saying 'is this going to be the one that breaks my foot again?' I didn't want that to be my Olympic experience."
While some of the front-runners, or their coaches, were ready to shout out their arguments about the quad from their soapbox, Joubert chose to ignore the furor and gave the Olympic rink at the Pacific Coliseum the thumbs down.
"The rink is not so impressive. I don't feel like I'm at the Olympics Games. I almost feel like I'm at a training camp," said the Frenchman after his first outing in the arena on Saturday.
"It is hot on the ice and that is tiring."
Plushenko followed Joubert on to the ice but again refused to speak to reporters, leaving Mishin to declare that his charge was preparing to be "like a flower bouquet that looks fresh on the day of the competition."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)