VANCOUVER (AP) -- A seismic shift in figure skating power hit the Vancouver Olympics. Asia, led by the phenomenal Kim Yu-na, and North America are in. Europe, particularly Russia, is out.
Kim's record performance will be a YouTube staple for years. Evan Lysacek's gold medal, the first for an American man since 1988, showed what an insatiable work ethic can achieve.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's ice dance victory was a celebration of everything new and good about a sport once plagued by judging based on a skater's reputation. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo's pairs gold was a tribute to perseverance.
The common thread: all came from outside Europe. It's a trend that could last.
"It is proof that this is an open system in which everyone has a chance to reach the podium," ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta said. "The judging system has worked and the best skaters have won. That is the kind of competition everyone wants to see."
What we saw in Vancouver was a balanced event in which five countries won two medals, two others got one apiece. No domination by Russia, which even saw its streak of pairs gold medals dating to 1964 snapped by the Chinese.
The North Americans showed staying power with two medals apiece by the United States and Canada. Japan and China also had two each, but the rising stronghold could be Kim's South Korea, for which she captured its first nonspeedskating Olympic medal.
"The young athletes in South Korea have a level of proficiency that's very high," Kim said Friday through a translator. "It's higher than I had at that age. I'm surprised that at such a young age, there's a lot of possibilities for our figure skating. There are also high expectations, I know, and there is great potential for our skaters.
"My teammate, Kwak Min-Jung, was 12th. I watched her and I was really surprised, because this is only her second competition on the senior level, and it was almost perfect what she was able to do."
Not nearly as perfect, of course, as Kim, who plans to defend her world championship next month in Turin before looking ahead. At 19, "Queen Yu-na," as she has been dubbed in South Korea, certainly isn't too old for the sport. But she's already accomplished her goals _ and satisfied her nation's almost unreasonable demands for gold.
Similar demands are made on the Russians for every Olympics; they have been a fixture for figure skating gold for nearly half a century. They were shut out here, magnifying their woes back home.
Hundreds of coaches have left to work elsewhere. Facilities are inferior to those outside Russia. The depth that once characterized their skating ranks has thinned so badly that Russia had only one medals contender at Vancouver in pairs, dance and men's competition. It had none in the women's event.
"The problem now is we lost the system and they have to fight for money," said two-time ice dance champion Evgeni Platov, who coaches now in Princeton, N.J. "So what we need to do now is rebuild the system, get the funding, and we will be back."
How soon? By the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia?
"To reach the previous level, it could take eight to 10 years," Platov said.
Where the future is brightest is North America. Although the 24-year-old Lysacek might not continue competing _ he's already decided not to defend his world title _ there is a deep pool of talent in many areas. Most notable is ice dance, where the United States won medals at a second straight games after going 30 years _ 1976 to 2006 _ without one.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White added silver at these games to the breakthrough silver won by Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto in 2006. Davis and White should remain favorites until Sochi, and there are several more American couples moving up the rankings.
Concern about the U.S. women was eased by Mirai Nagasu's fourth-place finish, even though that meant no American woman on the medals podium for the first time since 1964. Nagasu has the skills, the personality, the flair _ and the right coach in Frank Carroll, who guided Lysacek to his gold medal _ to be a figure skating force over the next four years.
"Most 16-year-olds medal at their first Olympics," she joked. "I'm sorry that I wasn't able to keep up that U.S. trend. But, hopefully, I'll be able to make up for it when I get to come back, I hope, for the next Olympics."
Nagasu leads a legion of teens back home. And remember, she wasn't even the U.S. champion this year. That was Rachael Flatt, who finished seventh at age 17.
Flatt is headed for college, but hasn't said if she will put aside her skating career for schoolbooks.
The Canadians were disappointed that world silver medalist Patrick Chan never challenged for a men's medal. Still, he could be the favorite at worlds, and he's also just 19. His eyes are on the Sochi Games.
Canada's angst over Chan was erased by Virtue and Moir's sensational original and free dances. It was the first ice dancing gold medal for a non-European couple, and was followed by one of the best _ and longest _ victory celebrations in Olympic history.
In fact, Moir probably still is rejoicing.
The games' most uplifting performance came from Canadian Joannie Rochette, whose mother died Sunday of a massive heart attack. Rochette somehow found the strength to not only compete but win a bronze medal.
"I think this medal belongs to both of us, and a great part of my mother's life was dedicated to me," Rochette said. "Obviously, I will always miss everything.
"The way I see it, I just tried for my own self to go out there and to make my mom proud as well."