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Plushenko Takes Men's Figure Skating Gold
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Russia continued its winning streak in the men's figure skating as Evgeni Plushenko easily claimed the gold medal in the Turin Winter Olympic Games in Turin on Thursday.

The first skater among the medal contenders to take to the ice, Plushenko nailed 12 jumps, including seven in combination, to surpass Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland by a huge margin of 27.12 points with a personal best of 258.33, and Jeffrey Buttle from Canada took the bronze medal.

After skating an almost perfect program, Plushenko neither punched the air in victory nor roared with pleasure but sagged his shoulders in exhaustion as the tension poured off.

As hordes of fans yelled "Rus-si-a", he made the sign of the cross on his chest, kissed his wedding ring, touched the ice and kissed his hand in respect to the arena where that elusive gold was won.

"I felt great. I am happy with the result and the performance today," Plushenko said.

"Though I did a double flip instead of a triple flip, I did a lot of good moves tonight. That's enough."

"I will surely to compete in the 2010 Olympics," he added.

Russia has won four consecutive Olympic men's golds in figure skating: Alexei Yagudin in 2002, Ilia Kulik in 1998, Alexei Urmanov in 1994 and Plushenko in Turin.

Plushenko, 23, put out a strong performance to E. Marton's music "The Godfather" that featured an excellent quadruple toe loop and triple toe loop as well as a triple axel, triple loop and an impressive change foot combination spin.

The three-time world champion also showed a triple salchow and earned a personal best of 167.67 points (85.25 technical score/82.42 component score), totaling at 258.33 points.

Born in Volograd, Russia, Plushenko started skating at 4. Quickly identified as a talent, he went to St. Petersburg to train with Russian coach Alexei Mishin at 11, who has described him back then as "slim, like a cheap chicken."

Lambiel, the world champion last year, skated to Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons", opened with a graceful triple axel, followed by a quadruple toe loop and triple toe loop. He then pulled off a double axel, circular step sequence and an expressive triple salchow.

He picked up 152.17 points in the free skating, thus was given the silver with a total result of 231.21 points.

The 20-year-old Lambiel is the first Swiss man to win the Worlds since 1947 and he pulled ligaments in his right knee two weeks ago.

Buttle, the silver medalist at the 2005 Worlds, earned a total result of 227.59 points, jumping from the six place in the short program to the bronze medal.

"I am proud of myself. I had a good start. Though I slipped in one move, it was the best you can ask for," Buttle said.

"A medal is not very important for me. I am happy I had a great performance."

In Turin, Russia won the pairs gold with a victory by Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin on Monday. After the men's final, the Russians will go for the gold in both the ice dancing and the women's competition.

Two Chinese skaters competed in the men's figure skating. Zhang Min finished with 196.27 points in the 10th place and Li Chengjiang skated to the 16th place.

(Xinhua News Agency February 17, 2006)

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