Russian star wants to end retirement, maybe skate in 2010 Olympics

"" April 13, 2007

Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko wants to wait until June to complete his plans for a comeback.

He said Wednesday he▓s "very interested" in helping Russia turn around its suddenly plummeting figure skating fortunes. But there are other considerations:

Such as being a father to his 10-month-old son.

Such as potential injuries.

Such as having nothing to prove.

"I would like to skate, actually," he said by telephone from Richmond, Va., where he was beginning the Champions on Ice tour. "I have skated hard in practices and did the triple axels and the quads and the combinations, and I feel I can do it for more years and compete and go to 2010 (Olympics in Vancouver).

"I am healthy, I have no problems. Yeah, it may be because I am not competing a lot that I am in good health. I do a different job right now."

But he misses the competition. And seeing the entire Russian team go without a medal at the world championships last month was painful for the 24-year-old skater.

"I watched all the competitions and I would relax and I enjoyed just watching the competitions," he said. "But I think right now, maybe it is time to come back.

"It is going to be hard to come back because I didn▓t compete the one year. But I will work more and more and more. I know it will be hard. I am ready for this."

Plushenko, who has had chronic knee problems, insists he would not make a halfhearted return. He said he would skate in all the major events: the Grand Prix circuit and final (if he qualified), the Russian, European and world championships.

While he has not yet spoken to the Russian federation about a comeback, skating officials in Russia should be thrilled about the prospect of Plushenko on the ice again. For the first time since 1960, Russia did not win a medal at worlds, and the men placed 19th and 20th.

Plushenko could be putting off any official announcement until he talks to the federation about such issues as control of his competition schedule and money. He also wants to fully discuss the comeback with his longtime coach, Alexei Mishin.

"Of course, I am not happy with the results for Russia, for such a big country in skating," he said. "It is, of course, not good. We did not have any good placements; it▓s very bad at 19th and 20th. It▓s bad for me and my country.

"I think the federation will talk with me soon and I hope they would like to have me back to be in the competitions."

How could they not? His combination of jumping, spins and artistry made him a strong successor to Olympic champions Alexei Urmanov, Ilia Kulik and Alexei Yagudin. Plushenko had an intense rivalry with Yagudin in the late 1990s and earlier this decade.

After finishing second to Yagudin at the 2002 Olympics, he was a class above the rest of the men▓s field. He won the world title in 2003 and ▓04 - he also won in 2001 when Yagudin was injured - and easily outclassed the field in Turin in 2006. Nothing happened in the 2006-07 season to convince anyone that Plushenko wouldn▓t still be among the elite.

Plushenko is concerned Russia could lose at least one or even two of the maximum three Olympic spots for men if there isn▓t a quick turnaround.

"I am not surprised in Russia that we have a problem right now with the skaters," he said. "They are very young. We need just time."

His comeback would provide those skaters some of that time to develop.



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