Thursday, February 14, 2002 Updated: February 15, 3:42 AM ET
Yagudin wins; Goebel brings home bronze
SALT LAKE CITY -- Alexei Yagudin was so perfect there was no
doubting this Russian gold.
Yagudin won his duel with teammate and rival Evgeni Plushenko to
take the Olympic men's gold Thursday night. Tim Goebel finished
third, the first time since 1992 that an American man won a medal
in the event.
Alexei Yagudin swept the short program and free skate in Salt Lake City.
Yagudin received all 5.9s on the scoreboard -- except for four
perfect 6.0s for artistry. No other man had ever earned more than
one perfect mark at the Olympics.
On this night, the figure skating world could celebrate Yagudin
and forget about a judging controversy.
"I don't really care what happened in the pairs event. That's
not my business," he said. "I know I really deserve what I am
wearing around my neck."
Goebel showed why he is the "Quad King," becoming the first
Olympian to hit three of the four-revolution jumps in the games. He
also displayed improved artistry in becoming the first American to
win a medal since Paul Wylie won silver at the Albertville Games.
"I skated as well as I can skate, and I was just so happy to go
out there and put it out under pressure," Goebel said.
As for getting a medal, he added: "I was sweating it a little
But when Alexander Abt and Takeshi Honda couldn't match Goebel's
performance, he was on the podium.
Yagudin stood proudly on the top step as the third straight
Russian men's champion. For the three-time world champion who
finished fifth at the Nagano Games, it was a dynamic showing.
"I began to dream about this four years ago when I went to
Nagano," Yagudin said. "It was really hard for me, but that
stimulated me for four years. There, I finally realized I can do
He did it by nailing everything, including two quads, one as
part of a three-jump combo. He skated as the "Man in the Iron
Mask," wearing a costume with a bronzed breast plate and wielding
an imaginary sword as he flashed around the ice.
When the 21-year-old Yagudin was done, he collapsed to his
knees, then kissed the ice. He knew this was a moment of a
lifetime, and by the time he reached the "Kiss and Cry" area, he
The quick-witted Yagudin, who spends much of his time in the
United States, said he was showing his appreciation for his
"I just fell to my knees and kiss the ice because I live here
and won the gold medal here," he said.
His head was buried in his hands while the 5.9s and 6.0s flashed
across the scoreboard.
"It was like in some good dream up there," he said.
"I was just thinking of the hard times I went through," said
Yagudin, who had a high fever in Nagano and was plagued by injuries
last season. "Last season was like hell, but I am strong and I
just showed that.
"It is one of my best."
And one of the best the Olympics have ever seen.
Yagudin swept the short program and free skate with the
technique and artistry that have highlighted his career when he is
He joined 1994 Olympic gold medalist Alexei Urmanov and '98
winner Ilia Kulik as Russian champions. The 1992 gold medal went to
Victor Petrenko of Ukraine, who was trained in the same system that
has produced the current men's dynasty.
Americans Todd Eldredge and Michael Weiss finished sixth and
World champion Plushenko didn't mess up his free skate the way
he botched the short program on Tuesday night. There were no falls
and he also did a triple axel-half loop-triple flip, a very rare
and difficult combo. The complexity of his moves lifted the
19-year-old Plushenko to the silver.
Goebel did all three quads with ease: a salchow and two toe
loops. With 15 seconds remaining in his routine, to "An American
in Paris," the crowd already was standing in raucous celebration.
His coach, Frank Carroll, was jumping in the air at the
sideboards as Goebel hit his third quad.
And to chants of "U-S-A, "U-S-A," Goebel's marks gave him the
"It's great we've got an American man back on the podium,"
Goebel said. "Any of the three of us could have medaled, and I'm
really happy it's me."
Unlike in pairs, when the judging sparked figure skating's
latest scandal, there were no signs of impropriety. On Monday
night, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia won the
gold by the slimmest margin over Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of
Not that the pairs furor was forgotten. One banner said: "Drug
Test The Athletes, Polygraph the Judges."
Takeshi Honda's emotionally charged performance to "Concerto de
Aranjuez," was not completely clean, and it was much less
ambitious than he planned. Second in the short program, the
20-year-old Japanese skater finished fourth.
Eldredge had just one error, following previous Olympic
performances that weren't up to the standards of a six-time
national champion and former world-title winner. He was 10th in
1992 and fourth in '98, despite being a gold-medal contender.
The mistake was the usual one, falling on a quad toe loop at the
outset of the program.
But then Eldredge showed why he has been a champion for more
than a decade. He hit every other element, including eight triples.
He skated far slower than normal, perhaps trying to savor his final
When he was done, the old man of the American team at 30 threw a
kiss to the crowd in the middle of a loud, flag-waving standing
ovation. He then shook the hand of the next skater, his longtime
rival Elvis Stojko of Canada, and sat down to see his marks.
Eldredge, at his last Olympics, said he will most remember "the
end of the program, standing in the middle of the ice, listening to
the crowd go nuts and just enjoying that moment."
Still, there was no medal.
"It is not the placement I had hoped for or dreamed for,"
Eldredge said, "but sometimes that's the way it goes. Sometimes
dreams don't come true, but you can't stop dreaming."
Weiss, seventh at the Nagano Games, said he had at least 35
family members in the arena to see him finish seventh again.
His free skate featured the night's first clean three-jump
combination, a quad toe-triple toe-double loop, of the evening.
Although Weiss made some errors later on, it was a strong showing
for the 1999 and 2001 national champion and world bronze medalist.
"I have been hitting that in practice, so I decided if I was
going to make any kind of move here, I had to do something good,"
Weiss said. "Landing that at a competition like this, that is a
pretty cool feat."
Stojko, the silver medalist in the last two games, finished his
Olympic career eighth.