The guys who I really want to mention are Daisuke Takahashi (Japan / 3rd place), Nobunari Oda (Japan / 7th place), and Denis Ten (Kazakhstan / 11th place).
Takahashi was good. He was fun. He was worth watching and rooting for, because he was just happy to be there, and gave it his all. He got up on that podium absolutely glowing with pride. Takahashi is wonderfully expressive, from the bottom of his blades to the tips of his spiky, mop-topped hair. His edge quality is as fine as a master carver's and his blades are like little lightning strikes, allowing him to change directions and turn without losing a millisecond of speed. It makes for a fast, energetic and very entertaining program, and he infused it with a healthy dose of sass. He played to the judges and the crowd, taking them along for the ride. His only flaw was a fall on his opening quadruple toe loop -- a jump he hadn't landed all week.
Oda managed to pull out a beautiful performance despite breaking a lace during a fall almost four minutes into his program. He didn't let it get to him, and got back on the ice to finish with a flourish and a smile. Nobunari Oda missed Torino in a controversial decision at the 2006 Japanese Nationals...Then missed the 2007-08 season after he was charged with a DUI... He is the 17th descendant of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), the famous Japanese warlord during the age of the civil war and inspiration for the Super Nintendo video game series, Nobunaga's Ambition.
Denis Ten has a rags-to-riches story that includes having started his skating career on an outdoor rink in a public park. He doesn't turn 17 until June, yet managed to show up at the Olympics and really show 'em. I hope he comes back in another four years. And for his sake, I hope he gains some more height too. Being a 5'3" genetic Korean from Kazakhstan living in Russia has got to be hard on a guy.
ETA: The new scoring system:
Turin in 2006 saw the Olympic debut of a new system designed to eliminate the risk of biased judging.
This was prompted by events in the pairs competition at the last Winter Games in Salt Lake City, when the gold medals had to be shared after a judging scandal marred the event.
In the past, judges gave one mark for technical merit and one for artistic impression, with 6.0 the maximum that could be awarded in each case.
Under the new, more complicated system, each programme is now given a technical score and a score for 'programme components'.
Each jump, spin, lift or step sequence is given a 'base value' before the competition begins. A triple axel, for example, is worth 7.5.
It is the job of a 'technical specialist' to decide during a skater's routine which move has been executed - whether it is a double or a triple axel, for example. Two assistants are on hand to correct any errors.
As that happens, the nine judges - drawn randomly from a panel of 12 - each decide how well the element has been executed.
They use a scale ranging from -3 to +3. The highest and lowest of these nine marks are taken away, and the average of the remaining marks taken.
This average is then added to the 'base value' to obtain a mark for each element which goes towards the final score.
The old artistic impression mark has been replaced by a set of five judging criteria, each with a scoring scale ranging from 0.25 to a maximum of 10.
Skating skills - reflects the general quality of the skating.
Transitions - covers how well the skater has executed the steps which link each element.
Performance/execution - assesses style, posture and changes in speed.
Choreography - how well the movements, steps and music work together as a whole.
Interpretation/timing - how well the skater works in time with the music.
THE SALT LAKE SCANDAL
A row blew up when Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were awarded silver behind Russian pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. The Canadians had skated a seemingly flawless programme, while their rivals had appeared to make some technical errors.
A French judge claimed she had been pressured into favouring the Russians. It was eventually decided that the two pairs should share the gold medal.