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?