Maxim Trankov

Evgeni Plushenko

Yevgeny Plushenko, Sochi Olympic champions return to Russian figure skating team

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Yevgeny Plushenko, a four-time Olympic medalist who hasn’t competed since the Sochi Winter Games, and all of his 2014 gold-medal teammates are on the Russia national figure skating roster for next season.

Plushenko, 32, said in April he was returning to competition with an eye on making his fifth Olympic team in 2018. He will train in Turkey starting next week, according to R-Sport.

If Plushenko hopes to make the 2016 World Championships in Boston, he must beat out at least one of Maksim Kovtun and Sergey Voronov, who were second and third at last season’s European Championships but fell to seventh and 13th at Worlds.

Olympic women’s singles champion Adelina Sotnikova, who missed the last Grand Prix season due to injury, is also on the Russian team. As is Sochi team event gold medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya, who plummeted to ninth at last season’s Russian Championships. Russia can send three women to the 2016 Worlds, with reigning gold and bronze medalists Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova heavy favorites to take two of those berths.

Olympic pairs champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov are also on the team after sitting out the 2014-15 season.

The Grand Prix season starts at Skate America in Milwaukee on Oct. 23. Entries are to be announced.

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Report: Russia tabs Euro champ Lipnitskaia for figure skating team event

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15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia, the newly crowned European figure skating champion, will compete for Russia in the inaugural Olympic figure skating team event that begins on Thursday.

R-Sport relays word from a source that Lipnitskaia is slated to skate both the short program on Saturday and the free skate on Sunday for the Russians, who are looking to earn a historic gold on home ice. Lipnitskaia is also expected to be in the medal hunt in the women’s individual competition, which starts Feb. 19.

As for the rest of Russia’s team event roster, two different pairs will be used according to R-Sport. Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar, the reigning world champions and a threat to win pairs gold in Sochi, is set for the short program.

However, Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov (who finished second to Trankov/Volosozhar in the aforementioned European championships) will replace them for the free skate.

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Russia will also reportedly take the same tack for ice dance – using Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviev in the short and Yelena Ilinykh and Nitika Katsalapov in the free. Finally, 2006 Olympic champion Yevgeny Plushenko will compete on the men’s side.

Following the men’s and pairs short programs on Thursday, the team event continues Saturday with short dance and pairs free skate in addition to the women’s short programs. The event concludes Sunday with the men’s and women’s free skate and the free dance.

The U.S. has yet to officially reveal its team figure skating event roster.

Mao Asada wins Skate America; more records for Russian pair

Mao Asada
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Shaky Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada held on to win the first Grand Prix figure skating event of the season, beating a field that included U.S. champion Ashley Wagner.

Asada, a two-time world champion, scored 204.55 points at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Wagner looked like an Olympic medal threat Sunday, totaling 193.81 for second place (full results below).

In the pairs competition, Russian world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov reset their world record for a free skate one day after they broke their mark in the short program to win easily.

The Grand Prix season continues with Skate Canada beginning Friday (NBC coverage Sunday, 4 p.m. ET). Three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan and U.S. silver medalist Gracie Gold lead the field in St. John, New Brunswick.

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On Sunday, Asada, 23, fell on a triple axel, the toughest jump in women’s skating today. She also doubled the second jump of a planned triple-triple combination.

It was still good enough to beat Wagner, who was four points behind Asada after the short program Saturday.

Wagner landed a triple-triple jump combination for the second straight day after adding it to her repertoire for the Olympic season. The daughter of a U.S. Army officer hit six more triple jumps skating to “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Two solid programs back to back, that’s a huge accomplishment any time of the year,” Wagner told NBC. “I have a lot of work to do until Sochi, but I’m on the way up.”

Wagner is a favorite to grab one of three women’s spots on the U.S. Olympic team that will be named after the U.S. Championships in Boston in January.

She just missed the two-woman Olympic team in 2010, placing third at the National Championships.

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In the pairs, Volosozhar and Trankov confirmed their massive Olympic favorite status with 237.71 points, nearly 30 more than the rest of the field.

They skated to “Jesus Christ Superstar” with Trankov in yellow velvet pans, hitting side-by-side triple salchows, a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination and a pair of throw triples.

They broke the world record for short and long programs for the second time this season.

“You never stop, and we try to do better and better every competition.” said Trankov in an interview for the Joe Louis Arena crowd before he switched to Japanese to thank their fans from that country.

Volosozhar and Trankov may be the host country’s only figure skating gold medalists at the Sochi Olympics. They’re trying to regain Russian dominance in pairs skating.

A Russian/Unified Team/Soviet pair won gold at every Olympics from 1964 through 2006, but none won a medal in 2010.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, fourth at the World Championships, were nearly 30 points behind in second place.

U.S. pairs took fourth, sixth and seventh, led by 2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin.

Pairs has been the U.S.’ weakest figure skating event for the last decade with no Olympic medalists since 1988.

Denney and Coughlin, 2013 U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (sixth at Skate America) and Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, ninth at worlds, are the top contenders for two spots on the Olympic team.

Attention on Asada in quest for Olympic gold

Women’s Results
1. Mao Asada (JPN) 204.55
2. Ashley Wagner (USA) 193.81
3. Yelena Radyonova (RUS) 183.95
4. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) 176.75
5. Samantha Cesario (USA) 167.98
6. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) 167.35
7. Valentina Marchei (ITA) 156.79
8. Viktoria Helgesson (SWE) 152.34
9. Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) 148.94
10. Caroline Zhang (USA) 110.12

Pairs Results
1. Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (RUS) 237.71
2. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) 208.45
3. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) 187.35
4. Caydee Denney/John Coughlin (USA) 182.43
5. Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek (ITA) 180.27
6. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir (USA) 177.11
7. Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay (USA) 168.42
8. Margaret Purdy/Michael Marinaro (CAN) 146.28

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