"Reuters" January 25, 2003
By Justin Palmer

MALMO, Sweden - Yevgeny Plushenko was in a class of his own in the free skate program as the Russian regained the European men's title on Saturday.

The 20-year-old, winner in 2000 and 2001, landed eight triples, including a quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination in a stylish display of jumping and artistry. His marks included two perfect 6.0s for presentation.

"Last year was hard for me (he missed two major championships through injury) so it was a relief to come here and win," said Plushenko, whose bitter rival and compatriot Alexei Yagudin, the Olympic and world champion, did not defend his title in Malmo.

"I was fighting with myself and I succeeded." France captured silver and bronze, Brian Joubert retaining his second place from the short program while Stanick Jeannette improved from fourth to third. Plushenko, who won silver in Salt Lake last year, was hot favorite to win gold in Yagudin's absence.


His short program on Thursday had begun with a mishap when his blade got caught in a small hole in the ice during a quad-triple combination. But there was to be no repeat on Saturday as a flowing routine, skated to St Petersburg 300, music specially arranged for him by Russian composer Igor Korneliuk, earned a standing ovation from a capacity crowd of 4,000 in the Malmo ice stadium.

"I really felt the music and I can interpret it very well," added Plushenko, who hugged his coach Alexei Mishin after leaving the ice.

"I was skating for pleasure."

Plushenko, world champion in 2001, had been expected to perform a quad-triple-triple combination in his free program but the Russian admitted he did not need to perform the spectacular sequence.

"In the past few days I lost my form a bit. What I did here was enough for me to win," he said.

"It will be different at the world championships (in Washington DC in March) though."

Plushenko's victory completed a clean sweep of the gold medals for Russia, who also won the women's, pairs and ice dancing titles.

France's Joubert underlined his growing stature in the sport with an impressive free program that featured an opening quadruple toeloop. The charismatic 18-year-old, bronze medallist on his debut last year, is not short of confidence.

"I want to be world champion and Olympic champion in 2006," he told reporters.



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