Chan finishes off podium in fifth, Lysacek takes gold

A personal best in the free skate was not enough to finish on the Olympic podium for Patrick Chan as he finished the men’s figure skating event in fifth place.

He was able to move up two spots though as he began the night in seventh.

The top skaters were just too tough to beat at the Pacific Coliseum on Thursday, with Evan Lysacek of the United States winning the gold medal and Russia’s Evgeni Pluskenko taking the silver.

Daisuke Takahashi finished in third, becoming the first Japanese man to win a medal in figure skating.

Much of the talk surrounding the competition was whether a quad jump was necessary to win a gold medal. With the victory, Lysacek proved that big competitions can be won without it.

Plushenko, the gold medallist at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, has been a vocal supporter of the quad and he did successfully perform the jump in his free skate. However, Lysacek chose not to attempt one and still beat Plushenko’s technical scores.

He received bonus marks for choosing to do many of his jumps after the halfway mark of his routine, when skaters are tired. The 24-year-old also performed the cleanest program of the night.

Lysacek won with a total of 257.67 points to Plushenko’s 256.36 and Takahashi’s 247.23. Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel, silver medallist in 2006, just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Chan’s major gaffes came when he stepped out of his triple lutz and fell to the ice on his second triple axel. His strong component marks helped to boost his overall point total though, and he finished with a combined score of 241.42.

The 19-year-old from Toronto said afterward that he was happy with his free skate score after a disappointing short program, and that the experience has helped him greatly.

“I think after overcoming the Olympics and not doing your best, that’s the biggest challenge and that’s the Mount Everest of athletes,” he told CTV. “I think now I can go to Worlds in March and say, you know, this is a walk in the park.”

“If I skate bad I can easily come back because I’ve done this at the Olympics, which is the biggest competition of all.”

Vaughn Chipeur of Lloydminster, Sask. was able to move up one spot after his free skate to finish in 23rd place. The 25-year-old was 12th in last year’s World Championships but he struggled in Vancouver.

While the top skaters performed well, few men performed clean programs. There were many stumbles, spills, step-outs, and under-rotated jumps throughout the evening.

Japan’s Nobunari Oda had the most deductions of the night as his skate lace broke in the middle of a jump, causing him to fall and forcing him to stop. He was able to fix the lace and finish his program, but the interruption cost him two points.

This country has been kind to American skaters, as the last time a male figure skater from the United States won Olympic gold was also in Canada. That was Brian Boitano at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Canadian choreographers have also been kind to American skaters, as Chan’s new coach Lori Nichol also choreographed Lysacek’s gold medal-winning routine.

With Chan’s fifth-place finish, 2010 marks another year a Canadian man has not won the Olympic title. Despite having very strong skaters throughout the years, including Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, and Brian Orser, who just barely missed out on the gold in Calgary, the top of the podium has proved elusive.