The Winter Olympics 2010: Figure skating

I walked into my common room Tuesday evening to find the whole gang gathered around our tiny television set.

“What are you guys watching?” I asked.

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David Yu
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“Shh. Short program is about to start,” C said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

I sat down, confused.

“Ohmygosh you guys Plushenko is up next!” B said giggling.

Over the next few hours, I became well versed in the intricacies of the men’s figure skating short program — a maximum of 2 minutes and fifty seconds, three jumps, three spins and two step sequences. After one week my suitemates were suddenly experts on the sport.

“Not his best,” C said after one performance.

“That’s at least a point off,” A commented, shaking her head, as one skater stumbled after a jump.

As the competition continued, clear favorites emerged.

Evgeni Plushenko, the reigning Olympic champion with shaggy blond hair and a prominent nose quickly rose to the top as “#1 badass” in the competition. He took three years off from skating following the 2006 games and trained for only 11 months before arriving in Vancouver, but still managed to surpass the previous leader by about 15 points and finished in the lead at the night’s end. A judges’ favorite, but not enough of an underdog to win the affections of the suite.

Then there was Patrick Chan, the 19 year-old Canadian who captured our hearts with his earnestness and modesty in the two-minute NBC clip about his life and struggle to the top. His navy blue sequined costume with velvet trim was just the right amount of flamboyant, and his excited, wide-eyed grin at the end of his performance couldn’t have been cuter. But alas, Chan is Canadian, and with his home-court advantage and penchant for saying “eh,” we couldn’t very well root for him.

The room was divided on American sensation Evan Lysacek, whom we nicknamed Raskolnikov. By way of explanation, here are the words of G:

“He looks a little Russian. He also looks like he could kill you. Then he puts on his skates and you think ‘yeah he could totally kill me with those.’”

Lysacek finished in second place after the men’s short program, only .55 points behind Plushenko. A technical powerhouse, Lysacek has been declared by some skating blogs (yes, I’ve been reading skating blogs) to be the messiah of figure skating — the one to make the sport mainstream and acceptable for the straight man.

On the other side of the American figure skating spectrum sits Johnny Weir, the clear favorite of more than half the suite. Weir is perhaps best known for his 2009 performance to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” which featured a mirrored body suit and frenetic booty shaking. Weir is fierce to say the least, doing for figure skating what Adam Lambert did for “American Idol.” He took to the ice in a skin-tight black and pink ensemble that was one part punk rock, one part, well, figure skater. His performance garnered him a sixth-place finish after the short program, but first place in our book.

By the time this article goes to print, we will have a new Olympic champion, and men’s figure skating will once again fall off my radar for at least another four years. But I will always have the memory of the two days when my suitemates and I huddled around our TV, pretending like we knew what we were talking about and getting way too invested in whether a man in spandex landed his triple axel properly.

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