Plushenko wins 7th European title
SHEFFIELD, England - Defying his aching left knee and advancing age, Evgeni Plushenko produced a career-best performance to win a seventh men’s European figure skating title on Saturday, adding another layer to his legend.
Throwing in an unexpected quadruple jump to a compelling routine to “Tango de Roxanne’’ from the “Moulin Rouge!” soundtrack, the 2006 Olympic champion scored a personal-best 176.52 points in the free skate to total 261.23 - his highest-ever overall mark.
“I’m called the king by many people, and I try to live up to that name. I want to remain the king for a long time to come,’’ the 29-year-old Plushenko said with a grin.
If Plushenko is the king, then Carolina Kostner is surely the queen of European skating.
On a day to remember for a relative veteran of the women’s competition, the 24-year-old Italian captured a fourth continental title in a six-year span by executing a flawless, if limited, free skate to build on her lead from Friday’s short program.
Topping both segments, the elegant Kostner finished with 183.55 points, more than 16 clear of second-place Kiira Korpi of Finland.
With 18-year-old Artur Gachinski finishing second in the men’s competition, Russia left the Europeans with seven medals out of a possible 12 - two years before the country hosts the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
The spectators at Motorpoint Arena were already on their feet when Plushenko - dressed in a glitter-lined black outfit - finished his breathtaking routine in a blaze of glory, repeatedly pumping his fists in the direction of the judges.
Even with Gachinski, who led Plushenko by 0.09 points after the short dance, and three other rivals to come, the greatest male skater of his generation knew the gold was again his - 12 years after winning his first continental title.
“I did a little bit of history in figure skating today,’’ an overjoyed Plushenko said.
Gachinski couldn’t match his mentor, idol and training partner.
The bronze medalist from last year’s worlds scored 161.47 points in his free skate to total 246.27, a personal best too.
Defending champion Florent Amodio of France rallied from fifth place to take the bronze with an overall score of 234.18, ahead of Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic, who had 229.30.
Plushenko hopped onto the podium to collect the 18th major medal of an illustrious career that he is set to stretch, amazingly, to Sochi. He started off in seniors in 1997.
“I felt like I did eight years ago out there,’’ said Plushenko, the only living male skater with three Olympic medals to his name. AP