MOSCOW, December 9 (R-Sport) - Japan's top figure skaters Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu both used the word "scary" when asked about the prospect of facing Evgeni Plushenko at the 2014 Olympics.
The 2010 world champion Takahashi won the gold and rising star Hanyu the silver at this weeked's Grand Prix Finals in Sochi, where Plushenko is expected to perform in front of his home crowd at the Winter Games.
"He's the dark horse in this big race," Takahashi said Saturday. "Scary but at the same time I'm looking forward to it and, as one fan, I'm really happy."
Plushenko returned from two years away from the sport to win a seventh European title in January, and Takahashi said the Russian, 30, was an inspiration.
"I'm going to be 27 when [the] Sochi Olympics comes, so it's going to be quite tough on me," he said.
"Considering that Plushenko has been able to do this, I think it's going to be a good motivator for myself, because I'm going to persevere and work hard for that."
Hanyu, meanwhile, turned 18 at the finals and has never skated against the man he calls his childhood hero.
"I saw him and wanted to be just like him," he said.
"I would like to skate with him as soon as possible but at the same time I don't want to skate with him because it's quite scary. It's surreal and it feels strange for me to be talking about Plushenko."
The Russian has not faced non-European opponents since winning silver at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and Canada's Patrick Chan warned he would now be "kind of the odd duck in the group" after losing touch with many other skaters.
Plushenko opted not to compete in the Grand Prix series this year to avoid overload on his last season before the Games, but is set to appear in the Russian nationals in Sochi later this month.
He missed the NRW Trophy exhibition in Germany this week after a minor operation.