Plushenko roars back, wins seventh Euro title

Russian legend vows full-time return to competition next season

Evgeni Plushenko emotes after his winning free skate at the European Championships.
Evgeni Plushenko emotes after his winning free skate at the European Championships. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(01/28/2012) - Evgeni Plushenko was not happy about placing second in the short program behind his teammate Artur Gachinski, even though Gachinski is a decade younger.

The 29-year-old skater, who won Olympic gold in 2006 and silver in 2002 and 2010, wanted to show that he still is number one in Russia and Europe. Therefore, he let doctors treat his knee, hoping that would help him land a quad.

The treatment worked. In his free skate to "Tango de Roxanne," Plushenko performed a very clean quad toe loop and seven triples, and he easily won his seventh European title with 261.23 points.

"I'm so happy with my performance because I did the whole program clean," Plushenko said. "I did the quad and combination, and I skated with big emotions, like a real Plushenko."

Despite the impressive win, the Russian legend claims he will not compete at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, France.

"I'm sorry but I'm not going to be able to go to worlds," he said. "I will have to have surgery in Munich on my left knee. For sure, I am going to compete next season: two Grand Prix, the Final, Russian nationals, Europeans and worlds. And, of course, the 2014 Games in Sochi.

"If I'm skating like this while I'm injured, I can do much more when I'm healthy. It is my seventh title, and I wrote a little bit of history. I am proud of myself. Yesterday after practice, I felt that the quad could work after trying a triple toe and another triple toe."

Gachinski, the world bronze medalist, performed two quads, but some of his triple jumps were inelegantly landed. The main difference between Gachinski and Plushenko, though, is one of personality. Not surprisingly, Gachinski still skates a bit like a junior, with some sloppy sections in his programs. Still, he won silver with 246.27 points.

"I am very pleased with my skate," said Gachinski, who like Plushenko trains in St. Petersburg under Alexei Mishin. "It all went according to plan. I did everything I wanted to, and the free program went very well. After all, I'm still young. It is my second Europeans, my first medal and a season's best. So I made progress."

Florent Amodio of France, who won the title last year, took the bronze medal with 234.18 points. He doubled his planned quad Salchow, but performed two very strong triple Axels and four more triple jumps. His greatest strengths were his showy step sequences, for which he gained +3 grades of execution scores.

"I feel happy, but there were a lot of difficult moments during my performance," Amodio said. "I'm going to focus on the worlds in Nice now. I am so excited. Last year I won, and it was magic, but this time, to fight my way back was amazing.

"At worlds, it will be difficult. I cannot afford to make an error on the quad like I did here, but I have two months left to prepare. I will take care of my body, as I have some pain."

Czech Michal Brezina placed fourth after an excellent triple Axel, although he fell on this quad toe loop and doubled an intended quad Salchow. After that, he recovered and did six triple jumps.

"During the first half of my performance, I missed some things, but I believe the second half was good," Brezina said. "Still, I'm happy with my skate and now I know what I have to work on for worlds.

"After missing the quad, I just remember what my coaches always tell me: 'Go step by step and concentrate on the jumps and moves ahead of you.' After this competition I will take a week off and then go back to practice to improve my jumps."

The second Czech skater, Tomas Verner, fell on his quad attempt and placed fifth. Javier Fernandez of Spain, the bronze medal winner at the Grand Prix Final, had a bad day, popping several jumps and placing sixth. Frenchman Brian Joubert, who medaled in all 10 of his previous trips to Europeans, did a clean quad but lost ground when he got two edge calls on his triple flips. He also missed two other jumps, and ended up eighth.