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How Evan Lysacek won and why judges don’t like Johnny Weir

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(Read caption) Evan Lysacek shows the gold he won in men's figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday.

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“With the old system, I must win.”

Thus spoke Yevgeny Plushenko, the Russian figure skater who was destined to win gold here in Vancouver, yet somehow didn’t. And he is almost certainly right.

How did Evan Lysacek top him for the gold Thursday night? For the first time in Olympic history, the world can look at the scores of a close figure skating contest and know the answer definitively.

And the answer shows how dramatically the new scoring system has changed figure skating. Evan Lysacek won gold because of his spins.

Under the 6.0 system, such a statement would have been almost inconceivable.

Plushenko was the favorite, he did the bigger jumps, and he didn’t fall. What’s more, his showmanship stood in stark contrast to Lysacek’s cool efficiency.

Yet by all subjective measures, the judges saw the two performances evenly. In the so-called program components, where judges have some license to score based on broad categories such as choreography and interpretation, Lysacek and Plushenko scored an identical 82.80 points.

The math behind the gold

It was in the tricks and their execution that Lysacek won. Specifically, it was on spins and step sequences – two elements that were almost time-fillers between jumps in the 6.0 system.

Led by his high-scoring quad toe loop–triple toe loop combination, Plushenko outscored Lysacek on his eight jumps. But Lysacek’s second-tier jumps – not the signature big scorers – were more difficult and cleaner than Plushenko’s, which kept him close.

In the end, Plushenko outscored Lysacek in the jumps by only 0.3 points. Given that his lead from the short program was thin – only 0.55 points – that brought the spins and step sequences into play as potential deciding factors.


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