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USA's Evan Lysacek reacts after performing his free program during the men's figure skating competition at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010.
American figure skater Evan Lysacek is now an Olympic champion.
Lysacek, the reigning world champion, upset Russian powerhouse and former Olympic champ Evgeni Plushenko to become the first American gold medalist in men’s skating since Brian Boitano at the 1988 Calgary Games.
Despite trailing Plushenko by a razor-thin margin after Tuesday's short program, Lysacek edged Plushenko by 1.31 points with a career-best 257.67 after Thursday's free skate. Daisuke Takahashi took bronze, becoming the first Japanese competitor to ever medal in men's skating, NBCOlympics reported. Johnny Weir landed in sixth place and Jeremy Abbott took ninth for Team U.S.A.
“It was definitely my best, and that’s what I came here to do,” Lysacek said after delivering his technically flawless performance. NBC television footage showed him celebrating the win with veteran coach Frank Caroll, who had never coached a gold medalist -- until now.
Lysacek was the sole American to strike gold on Day 7, following Team U.S.A.'s banner performance on Wednesday.
Skiing star Lindsey Vonn stumbled in the super-combined event and lost her bid for a second Olympic title and the female snowboarders faltered in their bid to dominate.
Vonn, who overcame a shin injury to take a gold medal in Wednesday's downhill final, led Thursday's event after the morning downhill run but fell during the challenging slalom portion.
Her best friend and biggest rival Maria Riesch of Germany won the event and American Julia Mancuso took the silver -- her second of the Games. Anja Paerson of Sweden took the bronze, 1.05 behind Riesch.
Vonn fell behind Riesch at the second checkpoint before missing a gate and losing her right ski. That mishap forced her to take a tumble. Vonn will have several more shots at gold, as she is expected to ski three more times and a favorite in Saturday's super-G.
Later, Australian Torah Bright bested Americans Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark to take gold in the women's snowboard halfpipe event. Teter, the defending Olympic champion had to settle for a silver medal and Clark, the 2002 champion, took the bronze.
Other events that promised medal opportunities for American athletes also did not pan out.
In the Men's 20k individual biathlon, American Tim Burke fell short in his quest to redeem himself for a disappointing finish in Tuesday's shorter event. Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway took the gold, while another Norwegian, Tora Berger, won the women's 15k individual biathlon.
One day after American speedskater Shani Davis tore up the ice, Canadian Christine Nesbitt found gold in the women's 1,000m.
Both of Team U.S.A.'s hockey teams were in action, although neither played for a medal just yet. The women faced off against Finland, destroying them 6-0, exacting revenge against the same team that beat them in Turin and left the Americans holding the bronze. The men routed Norway 6-1 Thursday afternoon -- setting up a thrilling showdown with mighty Canada for Group A supremacy.
Two American skeleton racers with interesting stories raced in qualifying heats Thursday. Noelle Pikus-Pace suffered a horrific leg injury in 2005 that knocked her out of the last games. She's won a world cup title and given birth to a baby daughter since then, and must climb up from fifth place for a run at the gold. Zach Lund was booted from the Turin games after testing positive for a banned substance that turned out to be in his hair-restoration medicine. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, but had to wait four years for his next shot. Latvia’s Martins Dukars held a slim lead over Canada’s Jon Montgomery after two heats on Thursday.
The final runs for both men’s and women’s skeleton races are Friday.
The Vancouver Winter Games are here and Team USA is rocking.
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