Worlds collide on ice

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — This is what happens when old guard and new world order collide.

There is friction and fireworks.

A frantic tug-of-war between fear of change and panic over staying the same.

There’s defending Olympic men’s figure skating champ Evgeni Plushenko, curiously portrayed less as the re-conquering Russian emperor and more like a stumblebum who can barely drag himself around the ice in any artistic sense before a magnificent quad jump.

There’s teen Canadian challenger Patrick Chan, with all that snazzy footwork but no grand-slam jump.

The sport’s new point system — rammed in after the Jamie Sale/David Pelletier debacle in Salt Lake City — has inspired new confidence in some.

“This system rewards skaters for what they do on the ice,” said Canadian ice dancer Scott Moir, whose discipline had long been regarded as one in a frozen state of pre-determinism. “I’ve always felt that. It’s not a case of North America against Europe. If you deliver, you get the marks.

“If you don’t, you don’t.”

But it has still exacerbated a new level of paranoia.

It’s why Plushenko sat, arms folded, watching young Chan practice this week at the Pacific Coliseum, then said he was too superstitious to talk until after Tuesday’s short program.

It’s why Chan is convinced the ‘quad crew’ will be landing them right in front of his eyes to get in his head.

It has, in so many ways, blurred the shadowy line between skating heroes.

Is it enough to be the gutsy champ willing to go for it with the risky jump, or suffice as the cunning king wily enough to suck up every transition point available on the board?

One thing’s certain: Chan’s bed, which is now away from the Olympic Village, has been made.

He has to do something grand here.

He has to sway the skating trains of thought towards his track.

He’s not the lone agent of change.

Brian Orser-coached world champ Yu-Na Kim is trying to win Korea’s first figure-skating medal against the tough Japanese. Canadian Joannie Rochette will try to evoke Elizabeth Manley memories of 1988.

Moir, with partner Tessa Virtue, are dancing for gold against their great friends and training mates: Americans Charlie White and Meryl Davis.

Moir will be choked if he’s standing below them on the podium. He’s said for months to anyone with a microphone or tape recorder he and Virtue are the best in the world.

“I don’t have to say it here at the Olympics,because I’ve said it all season.” Moir said. “It’s what I believe. I like telling the truth.

“That’s just my style. I’m not going to apologize for that.”

No timidity at a first Olympics. It’s part of the Canadian wave so prevalent at these home Games.

No compromise on medal count.

“This is our building,” Virtue added, after an early practice at the Pacific Coliseum Friday. “I said it out there probably in the first 10 minutes. It’s six in the morning and there’s nobody in the building but I could feel the energy here.”

And they’ve had some good fortune along the way.

Russian contenders Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin have been forced to defend their original dance because its Aboriginal theme and costume was offensive to indigenous Australians.

No one from Spain is having fits over Moir and Virtue’s flamenco.

Canadian veterans Bryce Davison and Jessica Dube get it started Sunday. Pairs has always been the toughest podium peak to crack.

Except for the Sale/Pelletier spurt, the Russians and Soviets have kept gold to themselves since 1964. That streak could fall to Germans Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy or the Chinese with Zhang Hao/Zhang Dan or Zhao Hongno/Shen Xue.

In Turin, the Russians won a Games-high four figure-skating medals.

It could be Canada’s turn to lead the table now.

Without doubt, it’ll be Chan-Plushenko that sways the balance.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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