Part of what makes figure skating great are some of the amazing rivalries that have existed. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the rivalries fresh in our mind and decide...who won?!?!
Also, click on the links in this post for some fun YouTube trips down memory lane!
Alexei Yagudin vs Evgeny Plushenko: Yags v Plush. It seemed for a while these two where winning everything...and when one didn't win, the other got second place. It was ridiculous. It was even like their coaches would have snide little remarks about the other skater. I remember at one point Alexei Mishin (who in Yagudin's early days actually coached him) saying how Yagudin's best days where back in the junior ranks and Tatiana Tarasova called Evgeny Plushenko "plastic" at one point (what did that mean?). It all came to a head at the 2002 Olympics and fortunately for Yagudin, Plushenko decided to crash and burn on his quad combo in the short program leaving a free and clear gold medal path for Yagudin. But who wins this rivalry? I think if you look strictly at the competition between them, Yagudin's World Championship 3-peat wins over Plushenko (1998, 1999, 2000) combined with that Olympic Gold and I think Yagudin is the clear winner. If you take a look at their careers as a whole, Plushenko has certainly been more successful having medaled in three consecutive Olympics. I think rivalries are more than simply competition against one another but careers as a whole and what you are able to achieve above and beyond your chief competitor. WINNER: Evgeny Plushenko
Michelle Kwan vs Tara Lipinski: When Tara hit the stage in 1996 with that quick program set to music from the "Speed" soundtrack and finished 3rd at U.S. Nationals, I was sure we were looking at a contender for Olympic Gold in 2002. Not to be, she quickly rose to the level of Michelle Kwan (who won her first national title in 1996) and a rivalry was born. Michelle owned the 1996 season, winning the 1996 World Title as well...Lipinski finished 15th. But 1997 was an entirely different story. Things looked like they would continue as they had the year prior...Kwan had easy wins on the Grand Prix while Tara just had okay performances. The tides turned for Tara at U.S. Nationals where Michelle Kwan suffered a major meltdown and finished 2nd (the meltdown wasn't so much in the placement but in the terrible performance) allowing Lipinski...at 14 years old...to take the title. Michellle's storm cloud above her head stuck with her as she lost to Lipinski at the Champion Series Final (now Grand Prix Final) and at the World Championships. All of this set up an Olympic year showdown and both skaters where hungry! Michelle Kwan looked good on the Grand Prix but then suffered an injury causing her to withdraw from the Champion Series Final where Tara easily clinched a victory. At Nationals, Michelle Kwan turned in one of the most memorable performances in U.S. Nationals history to take that title. The short program at the Olympics couldn't have been any more suspenseful with both ladies skating flawlessly. But the much decried triple loop-triple loop from Tara Lipinski sealed the deal in the free and she took Olympic Gold. Ultimately, however, its about a career as a whole. WINNER: Michelle Kwan
Johnny Weir vs Evan Lysacek: The recent Twitter drama has me about sick of this rivalry. I wouldn't even call it a rivalry really if the media didn't make it so. Maybe it became a rivalry at the 2006 Olympics when Lysacek got ahead of Johnny for the first time (he finished 4th to Weir's 5th)? I don't even feel like it was a real rivalry until 2008 when they tied at U.S. Nationals but Evan won the tie-breaker to take the title. Then it was like, "Oh it's on bitch!" Johnny still seemed to be getting the better end of it during the Grand Prix in 2008. Evan failed to make the Grand Prix Final while Johnny took the Bronze. At Nationals they both lost out as Jeremy Abbott won the title, Evan only finishing 3rd and Johnny, well, not even on the podium. But that's when Evan kicked it up a notch, narrowly missing the Four Continents title in 2009 but then running away with the World Title. Johnny made a good run at Evan in the Olympic Season but didn't have the chops to keep up. Evan won the Grand Prix Final, Johnny third. While Evan again lost the National Title to Abbott, he was second to Johnny's third. And of course Evan scooted out of Vancouver with Olympic Gold...Johnny was 6th. I'm somewhat certain we are done seeing these two compete against each other in the competitive arena but their rivalry or what I would actually call a bitch-fest continues. They just keep trying to media-up one another and it's getting old. The last stunt Evan pulled about not being sure if Johnny was a girl was in poor taste...but Johnny's has pulled some zingers of his own. WINNER: Evan Lysacek on the condition he stops the bitch-fest.
Kim Yu-Na vs Mao Asada: This is the hottest rivalry in skating currently. This rivalry is so intense their fans are often ridiculous about it. I mean, computer servers have been shut down over these two. They are both so magnificently matched in talents and abilities. It's just crazy. They've been trading titles back and forth for the past three years and you never know which one will win if they are in a competition together. Mao has two World Titles to Kim's one but Kim has the Olympic Gold to Mao's Silver. I guess we can give Kim another point for having the World Record score, but then Mao is in the Guinness Book of World Records for Triple Axels completed by a woman in a competition. In the end, its ridiculously close between these two! WINNER: Undecided...I don't think we can call this one yet but Kim Yu-Na is ahead by just a smidge.
Brian Boitano vs Brian Orser: The storied Battle of the Brian's between American Brian Boitano and Canadian Brian Orser is one of the biggest rivalries in skating history. Both equally matched in skill and ability, their rivalry came to a head at the 1998 Olympics in Orser's home country of Canada. Brian Orser also had won the previous season's World Championship ahead of Boitano and entered the competition as the slight favorite. After the short program, both were nearly tied but a bobble on a triple flip in the free skate allowed Brian Boitano to slip through and win the title...and the Battle of the Brian's. But picking a winner of the overall rivalry between these two is tough. While Boitano has the Olympic Gold, Orser has two Silver's. You do have to give points to Boitano because he competed in a third Olympics (Lillehammer) while Orser only competed in two. Does Orser get points for coaching Kim Yu-Na? Boitano for having a show on Food Network? WINNER: It's a tie! Disagree...well it's my blog!
Tonya Harding vs Nancy Kerrigan: The knee whack heard round the world got everyone to tune in to what was going on between these two prior to the 1994 Olympics. But these two in fact did have a history prior to the 1994 U.S. Nationals. Both had a National Title under their belts prior to 1994. Both had a smattering of medals from various international events including the World Championships (that includes the 1991 U.S. sweep of Yamaguchi/Kerrigan/Harding). Tonya had something Nancy didn't have though...a triple axel. After the attack on Nancy at the 1994 U.S. Nationals, Tonya went on to win the title but at the Olympics it was a sad story for Tonya. Her entire career seemed to crumble in front of her and finished 8th while Nancy soared to Silver, narrowly missing the Gold in a 5-4 judging decision. Details of the attack had come out prior to the Olympics, Connie Chung was following her everywhere, she couldn't get her shoe-lace on her boot tied, it was a press nightmare everywhere she went, and she couldn't keep it together. On March 16th 1994, Tonya avoided jail time by pleading guilty to conspiring to hinder an investigation, was stripped of her National title, and banned from all future eligible competitions. WINNER: Nancy Kerrigan...as if it could go any other way?
Did I call it right? Would you call it differently? Weigh-in!