Vancouver – Reigning world champion Evan Lysacek gave the United States their first Olympic men’s figure skating title in 22 years with a risk-free performance on Thursday.
Defending champion Yevgeny Plushenko of Russia had to settle for silver with Daisuke Takahashi giving Japan their first ever Olympic men’s podium finish taking bronze after the free skate final.
Lysacek, 24, finished just 1.31 points ahead of three-time world champion Plushenko whose shaky landing on several jumps ended his gold-medal challenge.
“That’s my best free programme this season,” said Lysacek. “I’ve been waiting for a clean free skate all season.”
“I tried not to get too excited after each jump. I wanted to pump my fist every time.”
Lysacek becomes the first American to win the title since Brian Boitano at the 1988 Calgary Games, and breaks an 18-year Russian domination in the event.
Takahashi finished over ten points behind the winner after falling on his opening quadruple jump.
Plushenko, 27, had led the short programme but with less than 0.60 points separating him from Lysacek and Takahashi it was a virtual tie going into the free skate final.
Lysacek threw down the challenge with a flawless performance to Sheherazade.
The 24-year-old did not include a quadruple jump, perferring eight triples including an opening triple-triple combination and two axels.
He scored 167.37 for the free skate and 257.67 overall.
Skating last, Plushenko opened with a quadruple-triple toeloop combination but was shaky on some of his landings including his triple axel and lutz.
Always the showman, he blew kisses to the spectators during the Tango Amore specially composed for him by Hungarian violinist Edvin Marton who also composed his programme at the 2006 Turin Games.
He scored slightly less than Lysacek tecnically with 165.51 for the free skate and 256.36 overall.
The Russian however becomes just the second man in history to earn more than two Olympic medals, adding to his gold from Turin and silver in Salt Lake City.
Takahashi fought back after his fall to complete his routine to the soundtrack of Nino Rota’s La Strada cleanly, scoring 247.23 overall.
The four-time Japanese champion was delighted at his bronze after returning following injury last season.
“I am really happy right now,” he said. “When I knew that I had won a bronze medal, I was so emotional. I was in tears. I’m usually not like this.”
“There were parts of my programme that weren’t perfect, including the quad. There were some other errors, too. But to finish where I am in the Olympic Games feels so good.
“I was injured a year ago and couldn’t skate. I never thought that I would recover well enough to be back here on the Olympic stage.”
Olympic silver medallist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland finished off the podium in fourth.
He had been in fifth after the short programme but struggled to hold the second of his quad jumps.
Japan’s Nobunari Oda dropped to seventh from fourth after his laces came undone undone during his Charlie Chapin routine.
“I guess that’s just my luck. What happens, happens,” he said.