The first medals of the 2012 Russian National Figure Skating Championships were decided in Men’s division. As expected, Evgeni Plushenko had no trouble with defending his overnight lead and won the ninth national title of his career. Artur Gachinski repeated his last season silver, while Sergei Voronov rose from fifth place to win the bronze.
Skating to El Tango de Roxanne, Plushenko checked out his opening elements: quad toe loop, two triple Axels, and a triple loop, but ran out of stream in the second half of the program. He doubled his the first triple Lutz attempt and stepped out of the second one.
The 2006 Olympic Champion mostly relied on his command over the attention of the audience as a means of interpretation, however, his skills in forging connection with spectators served him very well as the public responded loudly and enthusiastically to his every move. Though he posted only the third highest technical score of the evening, he won the long program with a five-point margin, scoring 171.43 points and 259.67 points overall.
“I have lots and lots of things to work on,” admitted the champion. “There were plenty of issues and plenty of empty spots, but all these can be corrected. This will be my first goal after I return home and start to prepare for the European and World Championships. I will improve both the short and the long programs. I might even have new costumes and make some changes to the music.”
Speaking of his performance he once again, stressed how hard it was for him to skate here.
“It was very difficult for me today,” Plushenko admitted. “I skated next to last and I forgot how challenging it could be. I recalled the Olympic Games in Vancouver, I skated last there. My legs felt heavy today after the short program yesterday. But overall, I am satisfied. I did a quad and two triple Axels and I finished emotionally strong. I have only started to land quads in practices a couple of weeks before the Nationals.”
“For me the most important thing was to avoid becoming a laughing stock,” he added. “There is always that nagging fear that you would step on the ice and proceed to double all the jumps. That would have been embarrassing.”
At the same token, the 29-year-old does not plan to rest on laurels.
“Frankly, the shape I am in now is not the one for European or World Championships,” Plushenko confessed. “It would have been madness even to contemplate it. I would have finished in 10th place, or may be in fifth or sixth. This is something I would rather avoid. But I am not afraid of defeats this season. I still have another surgery planned on my left knee. The doctors should finish working their magic and cleaning my meniscus. I hope that afterwards I will finally be able to train at full strength.”
The student of Alexei Mishin expressed gratitude to his fans who supported him here at the venue as well as for those who rooted for him online.
“I was surprised by how many positive comments I got on my twitter page,” he said. “And all of them are positive. Even yesterday, before the short program, I got some negative ones, but today all were good ones. I even got comments from fans in Japan. Some of them even write in Russian.”
The skater said that he is looking forward to the World Team Trophy planned for the end of this season.
“It would be interesting to participate in a team event,” he said. “We do have a very strong team in Russia, in all four disciplines, so as long as I improve my own level and get into better shape, I would be very interested in doing this event.”
Plushenko, however, faces an unexpected challenge on his road to the ISU Championships: he does not have a minimal score which the ISU requires, and there are no competitions for Senior single skaters planned until the Europeans in the end of January.
“We are aware of the problem,” said coach Mishin. “We are working on it, but I am not going to tell you what we are doing.”
Gachinski, who drew the last starting number, fell on the opening quad toe loop attempt, but recovered to produce all other elements without a glitch. His program, set to the soundtracks of Dracula and Interview with Vampire, was more expressive and fluent than the ones he has had the past. However, while he posted the highest technical score of the night, he was not able to put serious pressure on Plushenko, and finished ten points behind him with a score of 166.06 (249.58 overall).
“It is a pity that I missed the quad,” he told the press, “but I recovered to land two triple Axels and delivered all other elements well. I am pleased with how this Championships went for me. I skated last, but it did not affect me. I have not followed other skaters’ performances. They do not matter for me. I am always focused on myself, on my own skating. I was pleased to hear that Evgeni Plushenko considers me a rival.”
Sergei Voronov delivered an almost flawless routine to Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci featuring a quad toe loop and two triple Axels. The skater still does not attempt a triple Lutz, however, he added a triple flip back into his repertoire (even though he received an edge call on it). He received 164.44 points for the long program and 240.79 points overall.
“First of all I am pleased that I have been able to live up to my coach’s expectations,” said the 24-year-old. “He believed in me and I am grateful to him for the support. I am very happy with winning the bronze. The level of rivalry is very high at Nationals, and it only got higher with Evgeni’s return, so it a great result.”
“The doctors did a great job patching me up,” Voronov added. “Following the Grand Prix event, I had very intense practices. I have done a lot of complete run-throughs. I plan to do the same for the European Championships after the New Year celebrations.”
When asked how he planned to celebrate the New Year the former two-time national champion joked: “With Coca Cola Light. Now that I have qualified for the Euros, it has to be Coca Cola Light.”
Ivan Bariev finished fourth in the long program with a passionate performance to The Phantom of the Opera in which his only mistake was stepping out of the opening triple Axel. The particular highlight of the routine was the explosive final choreographic step sequence. The 20-year-old earned 150.31 points for his effort and pulled up to sixth place overall (219.87).
Konstantin Menshov delivered his typical hit-and-miss program, falling on the opening quad and later doubling a couple of easier triples. He slipped to seventh place overall (219.28) despite being sixth in the short and fifth in the long (145.09).
Zhan Bush fell out of an underrotated quad toe loop in the first seconds of his routine to an unusual arrangement of Carmen, and later had several other errors to finish sixth in the long program (141.49) and fourth overall (223.30).
Artur Dmitriev finished fifth (220.29) with a courageous performance in which he first doubled a planned triple Axel, but then was able to replace a planned double Axel with a triple one at the very end of the program (140.60).