MOSCOW, January 21 (R-Sport) – Turin Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko will receive Russia's sole entry in the men’s event at the Sochi Games next month, a source at the country's Sports Ministry told R-Sport on Tuesday.
The news comes shortly after Plushenko, at 31 a veteran of the sport, performed a test skate behind closed doors Tuesday for Russian figure skating officials and expert judges.
Referring to a ministerial document on Russian athletes for the Sochi Olympics, the source said: "In the men's individual skating, there's one name there - Plushenko."
Plushenko, who finished second to Evan Lysacek at the 2010 Olympics, will also compete in the new Olympic team event, the source said. An official announcement on Russia's skating lineup is expected Thursday, but the source said Plushenko had been selected and that only a formal confirmation from the Russian Olympic Committee remained before then.
Earlier Plushenko said his test skate "went great" and that he landed two quadruple jumps, the toughest element in figure skating. "I skated the program clean with all the elements," he told R-Sport. "I’m pleased, my team is pleased, we did a great and successful job.”
Seven-time European champion Plushenko has been struggling with back injuries for the last two seasons, and last competed in an elite international event when he withdrew hurt from the 2013 European championships, over a year ago. He did, however, win the minor Volvo Open event in Riga, Latvia, in November.
At Sochi, it will be four years since Plushenko has competed at a global event, having skipped all Grand Prix and world championship events since the 2010 Olympics. Since then, he has not skated against leading rivals such as world champion Patrick Chan of Canada or Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan.
Plushenko is now set to compete at his fourth Olympics, following a lengthy and, at times, bitter selection battle. Maxim Kovtun, 18, beat Plushenko at last month's Russian national championships, but could only manage fifth at last week's European championships in Budapest, saying afterwards he had been distracted by disputes among Russian figure skating officials over who would get the Olympic place.
At one stage, Plushenko even appeared to rule himself out of the men's event in Sochi, saying after the Russian nationals that he was prepared to compete only in the team event, conceding the men's place to "a young and prospective athlete," widely understood as a reference to Kovtun.
Among other major Russian skaters set to miss out on Sochi are Sergei Voronov and Konstatin Menshov, who finished second and third respectively at the European championships, where Spain's Javier Fernandez took gold.
The Olympics formally run from February 7 through 23, although the first competitive date for a Russian men's skater would be the February 6-9 team event, before the men's individual competition February 13-14.