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Plushenko's back and there's gonna be trouble



TGIF: A six-pack of figure-skating observations to kick off the weekend:

1. Yes, he was overscored. Yes, his arm movements are distracting, annoying, useless. And for all that, after watching Evgeny Plushenko's comeback performance Friday at the Rostelcom Cup Grand Prix event in Moscow, I have no doubt the 2006 Olympic champion will be a medal contender in Vancouver. The guy tossed off a quad-triple combination and a triple axel with almost disdainful ease, looking like someone who had been doing them every day the last four years instead of someone who had not been in an Olympic-style event since the 2006 Winter Games. (I'm not counting the meaningless Russian Cup 10 days ago in Perm.)

2. No, Plushenko is not headed to Skate America. That's what U.S. Figure Skating publicist Scottie Bibb told me after I e-mailed her to ask about the rumors that began hitting figure skating message boards as soon as the Russian finished his short program. When a Skate America spot opened up recently after Takahito Mura of Japan withdrew, it was filled by Igor Macypura of Slovakia.

3. If Plushenko, who turns 27 on Nov. 3, can come back that strong after a three-season absence, why can't Sasha Cohen, who turns 25 Monday? (Yes, I am aware the Russian long has had the jumping consistency Cohen always has lacked.)

4. Having watched three of the top five U.S. women (Caroline Zhang, Ashley Wagner, Alissa Czisny) at Rostelcom and last week's Grand Prix event in France, it seems clear only Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu have even an outside chance at an Olympic medal. Both Flatt and Nagasu make their Grand Prix debuts next week in China, where the women's field is weak once you get past them and Canada's Joannie Rochette.

5. Mao Asada is in trouble. The 2008 world champion from Japan slopped through her short program today, meaning she has given three straight seriously flawed performances (two in France last week). She is deservedly sixth going into Saturday's free skate. Is that a coaching change I hear coming?

6. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard Miki Ando's short-program music -- choral passages from the Mozart Requiem, including the haunting "Lacrimosa'' and the terrifying "Dies Irae'' -- "Day of Wrath.'' It's music that she has been using in an exhibition program, some of the most powerful and beautiful music ever written, but what is the 2007 world champion mourning? And why the mood-spoiling schlock separating the opening notes, which are Mozart's, and the two passages from his Requiem at the end? And is this music choice an inside joke on the idea that the "Dies Irae" is a poem about the Last Judgment? A stanza from the poem:

For now before the Judge severe

all hidden things must plain appear

no crime can pass unpunished here.

Does that mean the fires of damnation await Ando if she misses a triple jump? Or just really bad scores?

--Philip Hersh

Photo: Arms and The Man: Contortions aside, Evgeny Plushenko showed he still had a firm handle on skating Friday in Russia; credit: Yuri Kadobnov / Getty Images

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Comments (3)

Mr. Hersh,
I read from Korean articles that Mao Asada may change her short program after the Paris event. Have you heard anything about this? I really appreciate your knowledgeable comments.

Could you have used a more unflattering photo of Plushenko? I mean, honestly!
Plushenko loves his outlandish arm movements, he models them after his idol. His competition needs to step up.

"Yes, he was overscored. Yes, his arm movements are distracting, annoying, useless."

So, to be clear, are you talking about current world champion Lysacek or Plushenko?
I'd think you've perfectly captured the essence of the former... ;)


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