Plushenko overcomes injury, rust to capture gold

Olympic gold medalist bests field by 10 points in Saransk

Evgeni Plushenko proved he still has plenty left after triumphing in Saransk.
Evgeni Plushenko proved he still has plenty left after triumphing in Saransk. (Getty Images)


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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to
(12/27/2011) - The Russian Figure Skating Championships have gotten underway in Saransk, attracting interest not only from the Russian press, but also from many foreign journalists. One of the reasons for the immense interest was the comeback of 2006 Olympic champion and a two-time Olympic silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko.

Despite his knee injury and the many medical treatments he underwent this season, Plushenko confidently won his ninth national title Monday with a combined total of 259.67 points. He outscored Artur Gachinski (249.58) and Sergei Voronov (240.79). Plushenko won the gold despite continued pain in his left knee, which he is still recovering from.

"It was not easy for me," he said to the press. "Any comeback is difficult, and also, I had many medical treatments during the autumn period. I had mistakes in my quads and I still have to work on my programs' improvement."

"Of course, I understand that the competition at the international stage is very strong now. There are many very strong skaters such as Patrick Chan, Daisuke Takahashi, Yuzuru Hanyu, Brian Joubert and any of them can beat me. I'm still not in my best level of preparation, and it would be just folly to go to compete with them at the European or World championships being in my current sporting shape.

"But, as I said many times, I'm ready for any result this year. In the next one I will fight up to the end."

Alexei Mishin, the coach of Evgeni Plushenko, said that his student's comeback deserves to be in the Guinness book. At the same time, he also noted that Plushenko still has a lot of things to work on.

"There were bad pieces in his performances, and we will work on them. I don't want to do a public analysis of his skating; our enemies will do it much better. But I would like to note that Plushenko has started to feel better and starting to overcome the pain in his leg just 10 days before the competitions," Mishin said.

Silver medalist Gachinski is satisfied with his skating and result.

"In my free skate program, I fell trying to execute my quad, but I'm very happy with my two triple axels, other jumps, step sequences and spins. I was the last one in the warm-up of the strongest skaters, but this didn't influence my skating at all. In general I'm very happy with my performance."

In ice dancing, the gold medal went to Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev with a total score of 171.47 points, good enough for their second national title. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov improved their last year's result, finishing second with 161.94 points overall. The bronze medal went to Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko, earning 154.71 points.

"It was our fifth competition in a short period of time and we were a little bit tired," they said. "However, our performance was very emotional and in general we're happy with our skating in Saransk. Now we will have short-term holidays after which we will start our preparation for the European Championships. We need this rest to recharge our emotional and physical shape. Also, we will have time to change some details in our programs."

Ekaterina Riazanova competed at the nationals just a few days after discharge from the hospital. At one of the trainings before nationals, she fell from a lift and has suffered a concussion. In spite of this, Riazanova and Tkachenko performed very well in Saransk and deservedly took the bronze and the spot on the Russian national team.

"We didn't have enough time for the full preparation for championships because of my injury," Ekaterina said. "But at the same time, I perfectly knew that if we miss the Russian championships, we can say goodbye to a spot in the national team. So I decided to exert all my strength and efforts to perform well there. Now I feel better, and after a little rest, we will continue our preparation for the international events."