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Several veterans drop from the rankings

Plushenko, Sandhu and others fall from the list

Evgeni Plushenko took a victory lap with the Russian flag in Turin in 2006, but his return to the rankings will have to wait at least till next year.
Evgeni Plushenko took a victory lap with the Russian flag in Turin in 2006, but his return to the rankings will have to wait at least till next year. (Getty Images)

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By Todd Hinckley
(01/07/2008) - Icenetwork.com's World Figure Skater Rankings returned this week after its holiday hiatus. There was not a lot of moving on the list, but the major news came from several skaters dropping down.

Men

2006 Olympic champion and seven-time Russian national champion Evgeni Plushenko did not compete at the Russian National Championships in St. Petersburg last weekend. So his return to competitive skating will have to wait another year, but he says that's fine with him.

The 25-year-old told icenetwork.com, "You'll see me on the Grand Prix and at Russian nationals next season." And that's the earliest he'll re-appear in the rankings.

Skate Canada announced this week that Emanuel Sandhu had withdrawn from the 2008 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships. The three-time national champion did not skate competitively this fall, instead taking the time to pursue his singing and acting career. He had held out the possibility of returning for nationals, but he too dropped from the rankings since he will now not compete competitively at all this year.

In Plushenko's stead, Sergei Voronov won the Russian men's national title. The 2007 world junior bronze medalist, 20, is beginning to receive the same kind of acclaim that Stephen Carriere and Parick Chan, the two men that beat him in Oberstdorf last year, have been receiving all year. Voronov won the silver medal behind Chan at the Trophee Eric Bompard in November and proved that he is the best Russian male singles skater right now with his commanding performance in St. Petersburg. He jumped three spots and sits at No. 14 right now.

With Plushenko and Sandhu out, two new skaters entered the rankings. 2007 Russian champion and 2008 national bronze medalist Andrei Griazev is now in 19th, and 2007 U.S. runner-up Ryan Bradley is No. 20.

At the top of the rankings, Daisuke Takahashi won his third straight national title at the 2008 Japanese Championships. He inched even closer to the No. 1 spot, but he has not yet eclipsed reigning world champion Brian Joubert.

Japan's embattled Nobunari Oda also dropped from the world rankings. The 20-year-old was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in the summer of 2007 and was expected to return to competition for nationals, so that he could still qualify for the 2008 worlds. Oda, however, is not yet ready to return, and he will have to work back up the list next fall.

Ladies

Three-time Russian national champion Elena Sokolova also did not compete in St. Petersburg last weekend and thus dropped from icenetwork.com's rankings. Her last gold medal at an ISU Grand Prix event came in 2005, and she did not show her best form in 2007. With her departure, no Russian woman is ranked close to the top 20 in the world.

At the Italian Championships in December, Carolina Kostner had a chance to make up some ground in the top five, but she was forced to withdraw from the event because of an illness. Valentina Marchei took advantage of Kostner's absence in Milan, winning her second national title. Marchei subsequently moved into the rankings at No. 19.

Mao Asada won her second straight Japanese national title in December, but she was unable to make up any ground on top-ranked Yu-Na Kim. Asada took the national title by 1.15 points over Miki Ando. Ando, who has had an up-and-down season in 2007, showed some of her world-championship form in winning the free skate in Kadoma. Her performance there also solidified her position in front of Kostner at No. 4 in the rankings.

Pairs

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won gold last weekend at the 2008 German National Championships. They have now won that title all five years they have been paired together. China's Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang retained the top ranking, but the Germans are clearly the hotter pair, adding their national title after winning going away at the Grand Prix Final in Turin in December.

Further down the top 10, there weren't any changes, but several teams were in action in the new year. Russia's Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov won the Russian national title and earned their first berth into the European Championships together. They remained at No. 8, however, and were unable to make up any ground on Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, who remained seventh. Bazarova and Larionov struggled in St. Petersburg, though, specifically in the free skate, finishing a very disappointing sixth overall. This young pair might have done their best skating much earlier this season.

Also at the Russian nationals, Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov did not compete and dropped from the rankings, now having not competed competitively at all this year. Moving onto the list in their stead were the new Italian national champions, Laura Magitteri and Ondrej Hotarek, at No. 20.

Ice dancing

There weren't any veterans dropping from the ice dancing rankings. Despite not appearing at Russian nationals due to Maxim Shabalin's knee surgery, he and Oksana Domnina remained No. 2. With the top Russians not skating, Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski won their first national title. They were unable to move anywhere in the standings, though, holding steady at No. 5. Their finish at the Grand Prix Final last month proved that they are still not quite in the same class as the top four dance teams.

The only moving in the top 20 came just behind Khokhlova and Novitski at Nos. 6 and 7. Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali moved up to sixth, switching positions with France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. Just before Christmas, Faiella and Scali won their fifth national title, easily defeating silver medalists Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, who remained in 11th in icenetwork.com's rankings.