Evgeni Plushenko has been awarded Russia's only entry in the men’s Olympic figure skating event, R-Sport news agency reported Tuesday.
The 31-year-old finished second at Russian Nationals and skipped last week's European Championships. He previously thought he would only be competing in the team event, not the individual one. An official announcement awarding Plushenko the berth is expected Thursday.
Sochi will be Plushenko’s fourth Olympics; he won the gold in 2006 and silvers in 2002 and 2010. If he wins team and individual medals in his home country, he will be the most decorated figure skater in Olympic history.
Injuries have hampered Plushenko's career in recent years. His last major competition was the 2013 European Championships, which he withdrew from due to nagging back problems.
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In December, Plushenko finished behind 18-year-old Maxim Kovtun at the Russian National Championships. But Kovtun's disappointing 5th place finish over the weekend at the 2014 European Championships, coupled with Plushenko's strong showing at a test skate in front of officials and judges on Tuesday, reportedly secured Plushenko’s berth.
Plushenko is known for his quadruple jumps and flamboyant presentation. He was favored to win in Salt Lake City, but a fall in the short program cost him the gold medal. Instead, his countryman and rival Alexei Yagudin won.
In Torino, Plushenko scored 27 points over silver medalist Stephane Lambiel in one of his most decisive victories.
He led after the short program in Vancouver, but narrowly lost to gold medalist Evan Lysacek, who skated a less technically ambitious program -- one without a quadruple jump.
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"Obviously, Evan needs the medal more than me, maybe because I've got one already," Plushenko told reporters after earning his second silver medal. "I think we need to change the judging system -- a quad is a quad." He opined, "If an Olympic champion doesn't do a quad, well I don't know."
After Vancouver, Plushenko’s official website dubbed him the "Platinum of Torino" winner, complete with a photo of a fabricated, non-official medal.
Plushenko told R-Sport that he skated a clean program complete Tuesday with two quadruple jumps during his test. He faces stiff competition in the men’s event; Canada's Patrick Chan, Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, and Spain's Javier Fernandez all have multiple quadruple jumps planned in their programs – and also good artistry.
The Olympics figure skating event kicks off with the team competition on February 6. The individual men’s event begins a week later on February 13.
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