The 23-year-old Russian figure skater goes into the men's free program at the Palevela in the Lingoto Olympic precinct with such a commanding lead — 10 points — that even his closest pursuer, American Johnny Weir, says Plushenko might lose the gold only "if he falls three times, maybe."
Things might be closer in the women's singles skeleton, the head-first competition on sleds which commences on the Cesana Pariol run now that feet-first luge has ended.
For the American team, the luge competition didn't end well. Two-time Olympic medalists Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin won't get a third medal. The pair, presumably in the Olympics for the final time, saw thethat befell skier Lindsey Kildow and slider Samantha Retrosi. They were trying to become the first Olympians ever to win bronze, then silver, then gold, in that order, but of their opening run in men's doubles luge.
On Tuesday night, the men of the American figure skating team tried their best to beat an unstoppable Russian, but fell short in the short program, CBS' Manuel Gallegus reports.
Winning a gold is likely out of reach for any American skater as long as Russian Evgeni Plushenko is around.
"Realistically I don t think anybody will beat him unless he really makes mistakes," said U.S. skater Johnny Weir. Competition continues for the men Thursday.
Despite Austria's dominance in ski racing, the reigning World Cup downhill champion was the first woman from her country to win the Olympic downhill since Annemarie Moser-Proell at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.
In the mountains Thursday, the debut of men's snowboard cross, where four men in each race will swerve and bounce their way down a bumpy course. Some say it's the closest thing the games have to an extreme sport.
The first gold medals in speedskating men's and women's team pursuits will also be awarded.
In the more traditional events, the Nordic combined, postponed from Wednesday due to high winds, will be held along with the biathlon women's sprint and the women's 10-kilometer cross-country.
Back on the ice, six more men's round-robin hockey games are scheduled, including defending champion Canada's game against Germany and the United States against Kazakhstan.
Weir is not counting on any major flop by his Russian figure skating rival.
"I just want to have a good time out there," Weir said Wednesday. "I had no real expectations coming in, and now, sitting in second, that's incredible. I'm not expecting anything to happen in the free that I can't control."
A Russian or Soviet skater has won every men's title since 1992 — Victor Petrenko, Alexei Urmanov, Ilia Kulik and Alexei Yagudin.
At Pragelato, medal contender Norway's ailing Nordic combined team thought they had a chance to get back into the event following the postponement Wednesday, but that wasn't the case.
The initial ruling Wednesday to postpone the competition because of high winds would have given the Norwegians extra time to recover, a chance to get back on the start list and another shot. But now they won't be able to compete after all, unless the competition were to be postponed a second time Thursday.
Coach Frode Moen said his athletes were still sick.
"They decided to run the competition and it doesn't matter for us because three of the guys are still sick, so we couldn't start anyway," Moen said.
In snowboarding, 2003 World Cup champion and current leader Xavier Delerue will take an ankle injury into Thursday's race. At least three members of the United States team have a chance of reaching the podium — Jason Smith, Nate Holland and Seth Wescott — while Jasey Jay Anderson and Drew Neilson, both from Canada, could also challenge for a medal.
Defending champion Kati Wilhelm of Germany is heavily favored in the women's 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint. Wilhelm has won three of the past five World Cup sprints and placed second in the other two.
Snow and/or rain are predicted in the hours leading up to the race, so choosing the right skis and wax will be critical. Shooting is not as important in the sprint race because there are only two shooting rounds and misses are penalized by a 150-meter penalty loop instead of a one-minute time penalty.
Virpi Kuitunen of Finland and Marit Bjorgen of Norway are expected to duel for the gold medal in the 10K classical cross-country event at Pragelato. Kuitunen won a bronze medal in team sprint, her Olympic debut, on Tuesday, and she won her first World Cup just before the games began.
Swiss slider Maya Pedersen is the favorite in the two-run women's skeleton after finishing with the fastest time in four training sessions and second in the other two.