Russian Yevgeny Plushenko wants to skate only in the team event at the Sochi Olympics, but that may not be possible.
Plushenko plans to compete in the new Olympic team event and then cede a potential singles spot to a younger skater, he said after finishing second at the Russian National Championships on Christmas.
“I think I’ll choose the team event and will give the individual competition to a young and prospective athlete,” Plushenko said, according to R-Sport. “I understand everything adequately. It will be enough for me to take part in the team event.”
An official from Russia’s figure skating federation differed. Russia qualified one men’s skater for the Olympics out of the maximum possible three, and using different skaters for the team and individual events may not be possible.
“The final decision on who will be the main representative and who will be the reserve will be taken after the European Championships [Jan. 13-19],” federation general director Valentin Piseyev said, according to Agence France-Presse citing R-Sport.
Piseyev said Plushenko’s comments were spoken “out of emotion” and were not logical, according to the report.
Piseyev pointed out that the same skater must represent a nation in the team event and the later singles competition, unless the skater was injured from the team event.
“Not all the sportsmen know the precise rules,” Piseyev said.
This very issue was presented to the International Skating Union in an email last month when reports first surfaced that Plushenko might only want to do the team event.
An ISU communications coordinator responded, writing, “The ISU cannot comment on potential decisions that are the responsibility of the Russian NOC or the IOC,” and suggested contacting the IOC.
An email to the IOC on Thursday was not immediately returned.
Plushenko, 31, was expected to be Russia’s lone men’s Olympic singles entry if he wanted it despite finishing second at the Sochi Olympic venue Wednesday.
Plushenko is coming off a left knee injury that forced him to withdraw from a Grand Prix event in Moscow in November. Before that, he won a minor event in Riga, Latvia.
That was his first competition since withdrawing after the short program of the last season’s European Championships in January with a back injury.
The team event calls for short and long programs just as the men’s singles event does but with three days between the men’s programs as opposed to one day in men’s singles. Plushenko would be more likely to win a medal in the team event than in men’s singles if he competes in both.
At Russian Nationals, Plushenko was beaten by Maksim Kovtun, 18, giving up his lead after the short program. Plushenko scored 261.37 total points (free skate video here) to Kovtun’s 267.13 (free skate video here).
“I cannot call my skate a success,” Plushenko said, according to Agence France-Presse. “I need more practice so that my legs don’t die on me.”
Plushenko won Olympic silver in 2002, gold in 2006 and silver in 2010.
With one Sochi medal, he will become the second skater to win four Olympic medals. Swede Gillis Grafstrom won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.
Russia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. are expected to vie for medals in the team event, which starts the night before the Opening Ceremony.