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October 23, 2009

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Home » Sports » Skating

Plushenko back on the rink after 3-year hiatus

EVGENI Plushenko has had everything a figure skater could hope for, except for a dramatic comeback, and this week's Rostelecom Cup gives him a chance to add that to his resume.

Plushenko's short program today at the Grand Prix series event, formerly called the Cup of Russia, will be his first appearance in international competition since winning Olympic gold in 2006.

After Turin, there were no more major competitions for him to win, but the next generation of Russian skaters proved underwhelming, so Plushenko came out of retirement and began rigorous training, including dropping 9 kilograms of weight he'd packed on, according to trainer Alexei Mishin.

At a Russian competition in Perm this month, Plushenko was characteristically clean and stylish. But he tripled his planned quad jump and doubts remain about whether he's regained enough athleticism to mount a serious defense of his gold in Vancouver next year.

Some competitors here will present challenges, although world silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada pulled out because of a tear in a calf muscle. That leaves Grand Prix Final silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka of Japan and American Johnny Weir, the Grand Prix Final bronze winner, as top contenders, but both struggle with quads.

If Russian men have been disappointing skaters in recent years, the women have been almost invisible and visitors appear likely to take all the medals. Japan's Miki Ando, the world bronze medalist, and Mao Asada, who took gold at the Grand Prix Final, are strong contenders.

The United States is sending Alissa Czisny, whose back-to-back Nebelhorn Trophy golds show promise and Ashley Wagner, who notched fourth places in her two Grand Prix appearances last year.

Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, who have landed the rare quad salchow, come up against Grand Prix Final gold holders Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China in the pairs. Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker of the United States, who won a silver and a bronze in last year's Grand Prix series also are in the lineup.

In ice dancing, Russia's world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin pulled out because of an arthritic condition in one of his knees needs treatment.


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