Evgeni Plushenko
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Yevgeny Plushenko rules out Olympic comeback, retires

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Russian Yevgeny Plushenko announced his retirement from competitive figure skating, more than three years after the four-time Olympic medalist’s last competitive skate.

“As for me, I won’t go [to the 2018 Olympics] as an athlete,” Plushenko said on Russian TV on Friday, according to a Russian news agency TASS translation. “I have wrapped up my skating career. I’m opening my own academy where I will work as a coach. If we together with the athletes manage to prepare for the Olympics, maybe I will come.”

Plushenko, 34, last competed at the Sochi Olympics, taking team event gold and withdrawing from singles after his short program warm-up due to a back injury.

Plushenko had announced his retirement in Sochi but went back on that claim later in the Winter Games.

“If need be, I’ll have another 10 operations … I’m not ruling out that I’ll go for a fifth Olympic Games,” he reportedly said in February 2014. “I am not ruling out that I want stay in sports, to prove [something] to many [people] and myself.”

Plushenko was re-added to the Russian national team but never competed, though he has done many ice shows. He has undergone back and neck surgeries in recent years.

“I look at how the youth has grown up and men’s figure skating as well, it is now impossible to compete with young [athletes] it seems to me,” Plushenko said, according to TASS. “I have undergone 15 surgeries, and it is difficult to take part in my fifth Olympics, I’m fed up with it.”

Plushenko had perhaps the greatest career in men’s modern skating. He is one of only two skaters in any discipline to earn four Olympic medals, the other being Swede Gillis Grafstrom of the 1920s and ’30s.

He burst onto the scene with a bronze medal at the 1998 World Championships at age 15, after just missing the 1998 Nagano Olympic team.

Under the guidance of coach Alexei Mishin, Plushenko blossomed into a world champion in 2001 and Olympic silver medalist behind Russian rival Alexei Yagudin in 2002.

In 2006, Plushenko came to the Olympics with a personal-best score more than 20 points higher than any other skater under the new judging system. He delivered on that massive-favorite status by winning gold in Torino by a whopping 27.12 points.

Plushenko returned after three seasons off, largely due to knee injuries and surgeries, for the 2010 Olympic season. He won the short program in Vancouver but was surpassed by American Evan Lysacek in the free skate and had to take silver, beaten by a man who didn’t attempt a quadruple jump.

Plushenko barely competed the next four seasons leading up to his global competition return at the Sochi Winter Games. He was awarded Russia’s lone men’s singles spot despite being beaten at the Russian Championships.

In Sochi, Plushenko’s total score in the team event — 259.59 — would have earned bronze in the singles event that he skipped.

Plushenko’s bravado was unmistakable. Perhaps the best illustration was the title for his final competitive performance, “Best of Plushenko,” a free-skate compilation in Sochi commemorating the highlights of his career.

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WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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