Golden Skate

Evgeni Plushenko takes first in Men’s Short

Evgeni Plushenko currently leads the Men's discipline by just over five points after the Short Program at the 2010 Russian National Figure Skating Championships.

In the Men’s event,  Evgeni Plushenko of St. Petersburg (SPB) posted an unprecedented score of  100.09 (54.05/46.04) points (including +3.00 bonus for landing a clean  quad-triple combination) to win the short program.

The  2006 Olympic Champion also produced a strong triple Axel, but turned  out on the landing of a triple Lutz out of steps. He previously doubled the Lutz in his short program at the 2009 Rostelecom Cup in October.

“Today it was not my fault,” explained the skater at the post-event  press conference. “After landing, my blade was caught in the tracing on  the ice and I could not move freely to compensate for the rotational  momentum. So I was just turned around and there was nothing I could  have done. I have to say that the quality of the ice here is less than  perfect. You could see puddles of water in the corners and besides the  ice is somewhat brittle. But it’s a valuable practice for everyone. It  means that in the better conditions we will be able to skate even  better.”

Compared to his performance in October, the student of Alexei Mishin  has improved the overall flow of his program to Concerto Aranjuez,  as well as the speed of his spins. However, despite his record  breaking score, Plushenko (who missed 1.5 weeks of training because of  a meniscus injury) was rather modest in his assessment of himself.

“I think it was far from perfect,” Plushenko elaborated. “I am satisfied with what I was able  to do given the circumstances, and I am very grateful to judges for  awarding me a bonus. But I have merely done my job here today. I’m  satisfied, but I know that I can and should do better. My goal is to  skate clean. I know that it is not easy, but this is what I hope to do  at the Olympics. What I did today is not the way I want to skate at  the Games, but I guess it is good that I have some things to on work on in  the near future.”

When asked about whether or not his victory at  Nationals is  a foregone conclusion, he admitted that he is fairly confident that he  will be included in the National team for the European Championships and Olympic Games.

“As long as I’m healthy, I think we could safely say that I’m in,” said Plushenko. “My  personal goal is to skate clean and to show good results, but I have  to say that the other guys were also great today. If they could skate  like that at the international level, I would be able to retire in peace.  However, it begs the questions why have they not skated like that  before? Perhaps I have shaken things up a bit by my comeback. But as I  have said they did great. I especially want to single out Sergei  Voronov. I’m very happy that my friend and formal rival Alexei Urmanov  has such a student.”

Sergei Voronov (SPB), who struggled with consistency for the majority of last  season and had a rather slow start of this season,  drew the last  starting number. His performance to the Skryabin’s Revolutionary  Etude was one of the highlights of the event. The defending champion landed an excellent  quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination (picking up additional  +3.00 points for it), a triple Axel, and a triple flip. However, what set his  skating in St. Petersburg apart from his previous performances, was  the level of confidence and commitment which he demonstrated in every  move. He received 95.64 (53.28/42.36) points and is the only skater who  remains within reasonable distance of Plushenko’s score.

“It was hard to skate last,” confessed Voronov, “especially after my rivals had skated so  well. But I was able to pull myself together and deliver 100%. I have not seen  Plushenko’s performance, but the score speaks for itself. However, I  did not concern myself with scores or placements. I knew my real task  was to conquer my own nerves.”

Artem Borodulin of Moscow (MOS) is a distant third after an upbeat and engaging  performance to Kalinka. He landed all his planned jumps,  including a triple Axel, which often caused him troubles in the past. The skater  earned 84.42 (44.53/39.89) points from the judges and an ovation from the audience throughout the program.

At the post event press conference the student of Elena Buyanova was  very much down-to-earth. “I am very happy with the way I skated today,” said Borodulin, “but Sergei and Evgeni landed quad-triple combination, which is  something I do not have yet. I’m working on it, but the success rate  in practice is not good enough to include it into the program. So  today they were better, but I think we did have a good competition  here.”

Borodulin also admitted being impressed with Plushenko’s skating. “I saw him  today and it was a thing of beauty. The jumps and the overall  presentation. It was a pleasure to watch it.”

The most pleasant surprise of the evening was how Konstantin Menshov (SPB) was able to put  together a clean and inspired program, finishing fourth with 80.66  (44.01/36.65) points.

In the past, the student of Evgeni Rukavitsin was  known mostly for his inconsistency (he managed to finish 27th in the  short program at the Winter Universiade last winter, before winning  the long program to pull up to 7th place overall) and his skating  earlier this year did not bode well for future success. However, the experienced skater’s   performance in front of an enthusiastic home crowd was easily his best  ever. Not only did he land all the jumps, including a quad toeloop-double toeloop combination (which earned him +2.00 bonus) and triple  Axel, but he truly sold his playful routine, never breaking his  rapport with the audience.

“The improvement you see today is the result of the work we started  two years ago,” explained Menshov’s coach. “We have invited a new  choreographer, Olga Glinka, and she completely changed the way he  worked on the choreography and overall movement. But things like that  do take time, so it’s only now that he is able to show off the  difference in competition.”

Ivan Tretyakov (MOS) is currently fifth with 78.63 (42.03/36.60) points. The  2009 Nebelhorn Trophy silver medalist did not attempt a quad in his  program to Toccata and Fugue, but he landed a solid  triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe loop combination, and triple  Lutz.

Denis Leushin (MOS) is a close sixth with 78.40 (41.15/37.25) points. He also  landed a clean triple Axel, but underrotated the second jump in a triple loop-triple toeloop combination. In terms of choreography and presentation, he was among  the best in the field.

Artem Grigoriev (MOS), who has missed  most of the autumn due to injury, is seventh with 70.12  points.

The event continues tomorrow with the Ladies Long Program, the Original Dance, and the Pairs Short Program.

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