Skating federation president says Plushenko wants to be a one-note pianist
Ottavio Cinquanta of Italy, president of the International Skating Union, thinks Evgeni Plushenko’s attitude toward skating makes him like a virtuoso pianist who wants to play only Chopin.
Whether the judges agree with Cinquanta may be a factor in the outcome of the Olympic men’s figure skating Thursday night.
"Of course, Plushenko would like to decide the gold medal only on the basis of jumps," Cinquanta said Thursday morning. "But we have to respect the abilities of a skater like Johnny Weir as well.
"We ask a pianist to perform more than Chopin. We ask a figure skater to do not only jumps but spins and footwork. Figure skating is not only jumping, otherwise we become guilty of the accusation we are only an acrobatic sport."
Cinquanta is convinced the sport’s new judging system gives skaters without a quad, like Evan Lysacek and Weir of the United States, a chance to score as many points as Russia's Plushenko, who may try two quads in his 4 1/2-minute free skate.
He noted that Plushenko, who did a quad, and both Lysacek and Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, who did not, were separated by less than a point after the short program Tuesday. He was also pleased the top three represent three continents.
"The people can really see three skaters with different styles in contending position because of a system that condemned a former world champion [Brian Joubert of France] and a former European champion [Thomas Verner of the Czech Republic] because they missed the quad."
Joubert was 18th and Verner 19th in the short program.
"The best restaurant doesn’t offer only the best steak," Cinquanta said. "It also offers the best wine and the best vegetables."
Both Plushenko and his coach, Alexei Mishin, have been on a soapbox about the quad, trying to sway opinion with the assertion that skaters who do not do one belong to a bygone age.
"That’s the future of figure skating," Plushenko said after his short program. "Without the quad, it’s not men’s figure skating."
Cinquanta feels Plushenko, the reigning Olympic champion, is "absolutely not wrong and absolutely not right."
"Plushenko cannot snob footwork and spins," Cinquanta said. "He doesn’t like it, but I am not here to serve Plushenko.
"Everyone would like to be Michael Jordan and play basketball. But some people are weightlifters, and they cannot be Michael Jordan."
Cinquanta said Russian skating officials were right in asking to have images of Plushenko’s weak points at the 2006 Olympics removed from instructional videos that would be used in seminars for judges. USA Today first reported last week that Plushenko was taken off the videos.
"I believe that is an acceptable argument," Cinquanta said. "He was saying, 'I am a skater entered in the Olympic Games. [To] use my image in what you consider not a very positive way and show this on the occasion of a seminar is not fair to me. It informs the judges that Plushenko is weak in this area.' "
Cinquanta thought similar problems could be resolved in the future by inviting the best skaters to perform mistakes intentionally for instructional reasons.
There has been recent controversy about Plushenko receiving overly generous marks in one of the five component score areas, "transitions / linking footwork." The skater himself said he paid little attention to transitions to focus on his jumps.
Some of the discussion may have had an impact, as Plushenko received about 10% lower scores in that area in the short program than he had while winning last month’s European Championships.
Cinquanta also said Plushenko wants to have it both ways -- to have a quad worth even more points than it is now but not be penalized as harshly for failure if one tries it.
"He is saying, 'I try the quad. If I don’t make it, give me nine points; if I do, give me 15,' " Cinquanta said. "No, no, my friend."
-- Philip Hersh in Vancouver, Canada
Photo: Evgeni Plushenko completes a jump in the short program. Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune