ON THE ICE: Russia's Evgeni Plushenko has practically locked up the gold medal, scoring a personal best 90.66, the highest for any short program since the new scoring system was adopted three years ago.
American Johnny Weir was in second, more than 10 points back. He was among the first to recognize that Plushenko's lead may be insurmountable.
"I've been touted as America's next medal hope. As long as I go well, I can't see why not. I will definitely race for silver," he said.
Plushenko nailed every element, from a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination to a solid triple axel to complex footwork into a triple lutz. Only when his final combination spin ended did he lighten up, going from intense concentration to a series of fist pumps. He seemed more relieved than excited.
Though he was playful while he awaited his marks - kissing his wedding ring and blowing kisses into the camera for his wife, Maria - he was all business on the ice. He never gave a hint of a smile as he skated to Tosca, displaying all the tortured passion from Puccini's opera.
"I am very happy I achieved a new personal best," said Plushenko, who admitted he was a "little bit sick" earlier this week. "I did it in the Olympic Games. It is very important to me. Everything was clean.
"It's a lot of pressure right now, guys, come on."
Stephane Lambiel conceded with his first element, hitting a double axel instead of the triple all of the other top men do, and sits third behind Weir. France's Brian Joubert botched his combination jump and is fourth.
QUICK HITS: Plushenko's technical score (49.69) was higher than each of the bottom three men's total scores.
UP NEXT: Thursday, free program.
ICE MEN COMETH
Male figure skating contenders and how they stand after Tuesday's short program:
SKATER 1. Evgeni Plushenko 2. Johnny Weir 3. Stephane Lambiel
COUNTRY RUSSIA USA SWITZ.
AGE 23 21 20
+ 5'10" 5'9" 5'9"
WORLD Gold (2) Gold
MEDAL Silver (1)
NOTES Heavy favorite; has Won the past Won 2005 world
battled injuries three U.S. championships
since silver medal titles, but in absence of
at Salt Lake Games no medals at injured
SHORT Nailed every Score, 80, Lost any chance
PROGRAM element in program. was personal for first by
NOTES Has almost best after messing up
insurmountable impressive opening
10-point lead. triple jumps. element.
SKATER 4. Brian Joubert 6. Jeff Buttle 10. Evan Lysacek
COUNTRY FRANCE CANADA USA
AGE 21 23 20
+ 5'10" 5'8" 5' 11"
WORLD Silver Silver Bronze
NOTES Changed coaches Winner of the Finished second
three times in past two behind Weir at
the past two years Canadian last national
SHORT Botched his Ruined by Crashed on
PROGRAM combination jump. fall on triple opening triple
NOTES axel. axel. Cut triple
flip to a double.
+ Converted from metric for foreign skaters
Sources: International Skating Union, U. S. Olympic Committee