Plushenko closer to defend Olympic title in Vancouver after short program

10:51, February 18, 2010      

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Defending champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia nailed a quadruple toe-triple toe combination to lead the men's figure skating after Tuesday's short program, getting closer to double his Olympic title.

The 27-year-old, who stormed to the top podium of figure skating in Turin 2006 after having claimed a silver in his first Olympic outing in Salt Lake City in 2002, scored 90.85 points after starting the 10th out of 30 skaters and executing a clean combination of quad-triple toe loops, which was followed by a string of triple jumps.

Plushenko, who came out of retirement in the fall of last year, was the only skater to complete a perfect quad on Tuesday evening, through his score was a little bit less than the season best of 91.30, which was set by himself last month in the title-winning European championships.

"It may not be the best, but I'm satisfied with my jumps," said Plushenko in the overcrowded Pacific Coliseum mixed zone. "I skated not bad. I can take any result. The third or the second will all be fine to me."

"Everybody is saying 'you must, you must'. I was warming up and I saw myself on the TV and the rankings (of Russian athletes)...There is a lot of pressure," he added.

Turin Olympic silver medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and Sweden's Adrian Schultheiss also included a quad-triple in their routines, but Lambiel, who's the fifth after the short program, staggered while landing and Schultheiss failed to perform it.

Reigning world champion Evan Lysacek was the second on 90.30 with a flawless performance, which further confirmed the 24-year-old to be one of the hottest favorites to stop Plushenko from becoming the first Olympic title defender of men's figure skating in 58 years.

"To mimic what Evgeni said, this just sets us up for the main event. I'm happy tonight, but I'm going to put it out of my mind and conserve my energy for the long programme (free skating)," said Lysacek at a post-match press conference.

Japan duo Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda were temporarily the third and fourth with 90.25 and 84.85 respectively as their compatriot Takahiko Kozuka sit on the distant eighth with 79.59.

Home favorite Patrick Chan came out the seventh after scoring 81.12, behind Johnny Weir of the United States on the sixth with 82.10.

"This is the Olympics, you can't afford footing mistakes," said Chan, a Chinese-Canadian, who was the runner-up in the 2009 world championships at an age of only 19. "I think I was a little slow today. I lost some of the speed. That's what caused the time deduction."

The Olympic men's singles title will be decided on Wednesday when the more heated free skating contentions are on show at the Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver.

Source: Xinhua
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