|Saturday, December 13
Updated: December 17, 6:13 AM ET
New scoring system encounters controversy
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The new figure skating scoring system has its first truly controversial result after world champion Evgeni Plushenko was upset by Canada's Emanuel Sandhu in the Grand Prix finals Saturday night.
Plushenko jumped himself to the brink of exhaustion in the free skate, but received no credit for a third combination jump early in his program. When he cut a triple axel to a double and skipped a triple salchow, his technical marks dropped so low that he fell to second place. "I am surprised I am second," said Plushenko, whose quadruple toe loop-double loop was the first combination of its kind in competition. "The new system for me is good, usually."
"All I know is that I put down a world-class performance and that's all that matters," Sandhu said.
Usually on the fringes of contention, he originally didn't qualify for this event. Sandhu, a late replacement for American Tim Goebel, who withdrew with equipment problems, used complex spins, a quad and five triples, plus some sensational footwork, to pull off the upset.
"Just to be here was an early Christmas present," Sandhu said.
Although Plushenko, the 2002 Olympic silver medalist, hit two huge quadruple toe loops in combination, the seven judges whose marks counted on the panel of 11 penalized him enough for his miscues that he lost by 3.11 points -- although he had a 3.40 edge in presentation in what was anything but a weak performance.
It was a shocking defeat for the two-time world winner and defending champion who bent over for a long period to catch his breath after the free skate.
"To tell the truth, I am not so happy with the result," the Russian said. "I am so happy with my skate, I did a good job and hit two quads, and the new combination I think nobody has done before."
Nobody had beaten Plushenko in a major event since the Salt Lake City Games.
Three-time American champion Michael Weiss, still battling the effects of the flu, was a distant third.
"I've never been hit by Mike Tyson, but after I finished my program, it felt like I had," Weiss said.
In pairs, Shen Zue and Zhao Hongbo, who must really like America, won their third Grand Prix overall crown. Just 8½ months after winning the world title in Washington, the Chinese pair again was dynamic.
"So far, these two events are the most emotional experience of my skating life," Zhao said through an interpreter.
Skating majestically to "The Nutcracker," Shen and Zhao's series of intricate lifts and spins and soaring throws had the crowd on its feet long before the music ended.
Zhao pumped his fists vigorously at the conclusion of the free skate, then threw kisses to the crowd while awaiting the marks. And those marks in the new points system used for the Grand Prix series were superb: a 130.08 total that far outdistanced runners-up Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin of Russia.
"Today, I got the feeling like back in Washington," Zhao said through an interpreter. "I recall the memories of that. Again we have performed our best."
The best in ice dance were Russia's Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov with a playful routine to music from the "Pink Panther" and the Austin Powers films.
By finishing third, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto became the first Americans to medal in ice dance.
Gold medalists get $35,000, while second place is worth $25,000.