Yevgeny Plushenko teased the audience -- and intimidated his rivals -- by landing at least three quadruples spins in the final practice session before Thursday night's free skate but then abruptly took his bow.

With just seven hours to go before one of the most hotly anticipated men's competitions begins at the Pacific Coliseum, it was a chance for all the skaters to have a final run through of their four minute 40 second free programs.

With a negligible 0.60 of a point separating the top three, Plushenko's closest rivals -- American Evan Lysacek and Japan's Daisuke Takahashi -- treated the sizeable crowd to segments of their programs.

While Lysacek was applauded for his complex spins and footwork, Takahashi drew gasps when he fell on his quad toeloop.

Spinning high into the air has always been Plushenko's forte and he drew enthusiastic cheers every time he landed his Axels, Lutz and toeloops, many in combination, but that was all before his music came on.

The Russian, who will be the last to compete on Thursday, then surprised his rivals and the audience by making a hasty exit just seconds before his music started to blare out of the loud speakers.


Always the showman, Plushenko's strategy to play mind games would not have come as a surprise to his rivals.

I really respect Yevgeny as an artist because he does something different, said American Johnny Weir, who was performing his routine when the Russian left the arena.

He's a very fiery and dramatic personality. He gives all of his cocky attitude to the audience when he's on the ice and that's something that's beautiful.

Following the short program, which 1980 champion Robin Cousins described as the most exciting men's figure skating event I've ever witnessed, Weir said he was looking forward to a thrilling finale.

I think the fact that the top 15 skaters all were medal contenders coming in here, I think it's probably the best Olympic Games as far as competition is concerned that has ever happened, said the flamboyant American, who has a shot at a medal as he trails Plushenko by 8.75 points.