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Goodbye, Evgeni; Hello, Yuzuru

 Evgeni Plushenko at the 2012 European Championships. Photograph by David W. Carmichael.

Evgeni Plushenko at the 2012 European Championships. Photograph by David W. Carmichael.

Is there any sport with more drama than figure skating? The men’s short program Thursday may not have been Tonya and Nancy – What is? – but it was emotion-packed. First, Evgeni Plushenko withdrew and then retired. You could see the pain etched on his face as he tried his jumps. I haven’t been his biggest fan, because of the arrogance and defiance he brought to his silver-medal finish at Vancouver, but you’ve got to give the guy credit for leading the Russians to gold in the team competition. He’s a gamer. Still, at 31 and with two back surgeries behind him, Evgeni represents the past.

Right after Plushenko withdrew, the unsteady American Jeremy Abbott crashed on a quadruple jump, but had the presence to get up and finish, the crowd supporting him all the way.

But then came a group of young men with charm, personality and the technical goods – the USA’s Jason Brown and Spain’s Javier Fernandez, along with Daisuke Takahashi. Best of all, though, was Daisuke’s countryman Yuzuru Hanyu of Sendai, Japan – an area hit hard by the tsunami – who became the first skater to earn more than 100 points. He’s the ultimate in cool, and his splits with flexed foot are to die for. I picked him to win from the beginning, and I’m sticking with him. I don’t think the tentative Canadian Patrick Chan can beat him. But we’ll see Friday night, won’t we?