Last night as a reporter interviewed the defeated Evgeni Plushenko after a wrong turn during warm-ups forced him to withdraw from the Men’s Figure Skating competition, he expressed gratitude to fans for their continued support while reminding the world that despite his remarkable run as an athlete, he still is in fact only human.
At an Olympic level, perfection is usually best defined by the performance of the athlete atop the podium. On Friday in Iceberg Arena, the man atop the podium was not the athlete who gave the perfect performance, but rather the one who brought an even higher caliber of Olympic characteristics: endurance, passion, resilience and unrivaled emotion.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu was that man by night’s end, winning the gold medal with 208.9 points. But how he got there is the true story, as most expected the gold and silver spots would come down to Japan’s Hanyu and Canada’s Patrick Chan.
Hanyu skated first between the two taking the wind out of the arena when he fell on both a triple salchow and a triple flip. But Hanyu’s performance after the falls were what earned him the title as the first Japanese man to ever win figure skating gold. He skated with such sheer determination that by the end, one reporter teased that Sochi could probably sell the ice chips that shed off his blades to the highest bidder.
Canada’s Chan skated next, knowing that with his planned technical components and Hanyu’s missteps he was a few minutes away from gold. But Chan fell as well, and failed to deliver the rest of his program with the fight his Japanese contender presented.
So in perhaps an ironic twist of Olympian fate, the message from Plushenko on Thursday night went on to determine the podium standings on Friday, as the bronze was captured by the emotionally impressive Denis Ten of Kazakhstan.
None of these Sochi medalists had the perfect program, but all showed the true character of an Olympian. Because skill can be taught, but spirit — spirit is the trait that makes champions. And in the words of one of the greatest male figure skater of all time, even the greatest of champions are only human.