Ice-cool Plyuschenko skates to top honours
He came in as a strong favourite and lived up to his billing with a stylish and engrossing performance. Yevgeny Plyushenko was considered the world's top skater in the run-up to these Games, with confident predictions that only pressure could push him off course. Well, if he felt under pressure, it didn't show.
Plyushenko had grown up in a cold trailer in Siberia. Both his parents worked on the railway and his childhood was tough. He contracted pneumonia and it was only after the family had moved to the city of Volgograd that the young Evgeny was encouraged to take up skating to make himself stronger, fitter and healthier.
He started skating with another young boy, Aleksei Yagudin. Both were stunningly talented, even if their coach, Aleksei Mishin, was notoriously reluctant to hand out praise. And yet in 2002, the two rivals ended up competing for Olympic gold in Salt Lake City, with Yagudin coming out on top, and Plushenko having to settle for silver.
By the time the Olympic Winter Games arrived in Turin, Yagudin had turned professional. Plyushenko had won the world championship title in 2003 and 2004, missing the 2005 event due to injury, and had also won the European title in 2005 and 2006.
His brilliance became evident from the start. With no sign of nerves, he produced a short programme that was rewarded with a score of 90.66 a world record under the sport’s new scoring system. To put that into context, the American Johnny Weir, stood second with a score of 80.
Plyushenko then followed that with another record score of 167.67 in the free skate, where his opening sequence was breathtaking – a complex series of jumps that thrilled the crowd, the judges and, probably, even his rivals. He used the music from the Godfather, a famous film to go with a famous performance.
His dominance was reflected in the scores. Plyushenko won with a gap of 27 points from the silver medallist Stephane Lambiel. The same margin covered the difference between Lambiel in second and eighth-placed Daisuke Takahashi of Japan.
Plyushenko continued competing and took a silver medal in Vancouver. His display in Turin, though, will be remembered as the pinnacle of his career.