yulia lipnitskaia

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.

Figure skaters recall odd gifts from fans

Yuna Kim leads after ladies’ short program; Gracie Gold 4th

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As some expected, a Russian skater has emerged as the top challenger to Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim in the ladies’ competition.

But that Russian skater isn’t the one most were expecting.

Adelina Sotnikova appears to have emerged from the shadow of Yulia Lipnitskaia after earning a personal-best 74.64 in her short program – putting her less than three-tenths of a single point behind the Queen after the first day.

Lipnitskaia, the reigning European champion at just 15 years old, had been having a superb Sochi Olympics. But tonight, she finally made a mistake with a fall on her triple flip.

VIDEO: Kerrigan says Yuna Kim in a league of her own

She now sits fifth after the short program, down more than three points to U.S. Nationals champion Gracie Gold, who should be pleased with a fourth-place performance and a berth in the final group for tomorrow’s free skate.

Ditto for Gold’s compatriot, Ashley Wagner, who also will be in the final group even though she was scored less than Lipnitskaia for her solid – and clean – program.

VIDEO: Watch Yuna Kim’s short program routine

Wagner runs sixth, one spot ahead of the third American in the field, Polina Edmunds, who went to the top of the scoreboard after her skate and stayed there until Kim’s arrival and subsequent score of 74.92.

U.S. men’s skater Jason Brown, who was live-tweeting the proceedings at the Iceberg, was happy with his teammates’ results:

Suffering perhaps the worst night of all was Japan’s Mao Asada, who won the silver behind Kim four years ago in Vancouver.

VIDEO: Comparing Yuna Kim’s performance to Gracie Gold’s

Asada fell on a triple axel and also doubled a planned triple loop. The mistakes were major, and they were reflected in her score: 55.51, good for 16th place among the 24 skaters remaining.

MORE: Canada defends Olympic women’s bobsled title; U.S. gets silver, bronze

FIGURE SKATING – LADIES’ SHORT PROGRAM (TOP 10)
1. Yuna Kim (KOR), 74.92
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS), 74.64
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA), 74.12
4. Gracie Gold (USA), 68.63
5. Yulia Lipnitskaia (RUS), 65.23
6. Ashley Wagner (USA), 65.21
7. Polina Edmunds (USA), 61.04

8. Akiko Suzuki (JPN), 60.97
9. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA), 58.63
10. Nathalie Weinzierl (GER), 57.63

15-year-old Lipnitskaya comes up big for Russia in team figure skating

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European figure skating champion Yulia Lipnitskaya may only be 15 years old, but in yesterday’s second day of Olympic team figure skating, the Russian up-and-comer skated with the poise of a seasoned veteran.

She won the ladies’ short program for Russia, giving them 10 more points that solidified their lead atop the standings going into today’s final day of team competition.

“I felt nervous at the start of the program, but once I started, I just relied on my training,” she told NBCOlympics.com’s Nicholas McCarvel. “I just skated.”

MORE: U.S. in medal position after Day 2 of team figure skating

That ability to stay even-keeled under pressure helped her turn in a great performance that won hearty applause from her countrymen at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

To see her full short program from yesterday, click here.