Vancouver Olympics: Men's Figure Skating Competition Heats Up

Russian and American athletes start new 'Cold War' on the ice.

Feb. 17, 2010— -- In these Vancouver games, men's Olympic figure skating is now a duel -- East versus West on the ice.

Russian skating star Evgeni Plushenko came out of retirement and gave a gravity-defying performance in Tuesday's competition. His stunning jumps landed him straight on top of the leader board.

Plushenko stayed way out in front of the pack until American Evan Lysacek delivered a nearly flawless performance, good enough to put him within a half point of the Russian.

The crowd in the arena erupted, and the Cold War began brewing again on the ice in Vancouver.

The Russian and American teams each have an arsenal of unparalleled strength.

Landing 'The Quad' -- New Techniques on the Ice

Plushenko would be the first man to win back-to-back gold medals since American Dick Button in 1952. But the competition has become much more intense in the decades since Button ruled the Olympic ice. Button spun once for a single axel during his routine, while Plushenko landed "the quad" -- doing four revolutions in the same amount of time it took Button to do one.

How does Plushenko do it? Carving a figure 3 on the ice, he vaults off the rink reaching a height of 17 to 21 inches. In the air, he makes four counterclockwise revolutions.

Today's premiere figure skaters are incredible athletes. Dr. Greg Wells, a physiologist with the Canadian Sports Center said, "It's the combination of endurance, power, and even some of the flexibility moves that they have to do these days that makes modern skaters truly amazing."

Evan Lysacek's Training Regimen

Lysacek says he can land the quad, too, though he did not perform it in his Olympic routine. Ever since he broke his ankle, he has said, doing quads is no longer fun. But experts say his near-perfect execution of everything else was enough for the judges.

To stay ready for competition, Lysacek practices three sessions a day and completes his entire routine twice, back-to-back. Then, he performs intense core training.

'The Quad' Required for Gold?

Today, Plushenko raised the stakes. He said the quad should be a requirement to win the gold.

To that, Lysacek's mother had some ready words. "Anyone who can only do the quad and not excel at everything else ought not win the gold," Tanya Lysacek told ABC News today, with a grin.

The Cold War is heating up again.