After speaking with my wife and getting a long e-mail from my mother-in-law, it occurred to me that my audience for this blog is larger than the 6,000 coaches of the Professional Skaters Association and may have questions about what makes a man choose to attempt the quad. If I were writing a research paper, this is where I would insert a footnote so that the reader had a more detailed understanding of the facts.
So here's a little background:
In 2002, when Plushenko was 19, he attempted the quad toe in the short program and fell on it (by today's standards it would have been downgraded) and he ended up in 4th place after the short program. Back then, the judges used a base mark to reward risk. If a skater tried a quad and missed, the judges took the deduction from the higher base mark before assigning the technical score. That does not happen anymore in figure skating. Plushenko ended up with the silver medal at that Olympics.
If Plushenko had fallen on Tuesday, he would have lost 15.8 technical points (plus an undetermined number of component points due to the fall). If you subtract just those technical points from his score, it would have totaled 75.05 and that would have placed him 12th, out of medal contention.
Last year the three men (Abbott, Mroz and Bradley) I coached all had different strategies with regards to the quad when they competed. Even though Jeremy landed his quad toe in his short and long programs the year before at the World Championships (and placed 11th due to other mistakes), I decided he would not risk it the following season in order for him to gain confidence in his second year in the senior grand prix. This proved to be a good decision for him as he ended up winning Cup of China, the Grand Prix final and his first national title without it. Even though he did not do the quad in those competitions, he continued to train it all year. In April after worlds, he successfully completed the quad toe in the long program at the World Team Trophy.
If you follow the comments of all of the male figure skaters in the press, everyone of them will tell you when you add the quad to the long program it changes (in a very big way) the mental demands of the program. This is especially true in the new judging system because skaters can no longer "rest" during footwork or spins. In the short program, it is even more of a risk because there are fewer total elements to the program and the rules about the contents of the program do not allow the skater to make up lost points on the other jumping passes or change their program in other ways.
I would never question a skater or coach's choice to include a quad in either the program, but I do have tremendous admiration for Plushenko because he trained the quad to do it in both programs not only in Vancouver at 27, but also in 2006 in Torino when he was 23.
Since 1994, every Men's Olympic Champion has completed the quad to win the title as have the silver medalists. With the exception of one year, the bronze medalists have all attempted one quad or done it flawed (with the exception of Tim Goebel, who completed 4 quads: one in the short program and 3 in the long program in 2002 to win the bronze medal).
Last I checked the Olympic motto was faster, higher, stronger....not risk-freeer, safer, lesser. When you add the suffix "er" to a word it means "more." If a man wins the Olympic figure skating title without a quad will our sport be advancing in the spirit of the Olympics?
So those are the facts. You have read them and have a chance to form your own opinion before tonight's long program.