Plushenko closer to defend Olympic title in Vancouver

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Defending champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia nailed a quadruple toe-triple toe combination to lead the men's figure skating after Tuesday's short program, getting closer to double his Olympic title.

The 27-year-old, who stormed to the top podium of figure skating in Turin 2006 after having claimed a silver in his first Olympic outing in Salt Lake City in 2002, scored 90.85 points after starting the 10th out of 30 skaters and executing a clean combination of quad-triple toeloops, which was followed by a string of triple jumps.

Plushenko, who came out of retirement in the fall of last year, was the only skater completing a perfect quad on Tuesday evening, though his score was a little bit less than the season best of 91.30, which was set by himself last month in the title-winning European championships.

Turin Olympic silver medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and Sweden's Adrian Schultheiss also included a quad-triple in their routines, but Lambiel, who's the fifth after Tuesday's short program, staggered while landing and Schultheiss failed to perform it.

Reigning world champion Evan Lysacek was the second on 90.30 with a flawless performance, which further confirmed the 24-year-old to be one of the hotest favorites to stop Plushenko from becoming the first Olympic title defender of men's figure skating in 58 years.

Japan duo Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda were temporarily the third and fourth with 90.25 and 84.85 respectively as their compatriot Takahiko Kozuka sat on the distant eighth with 79.59.

Home favorite Patrick Chan, runner-up in the 2009 world championships at an age of only 19, came out the seventh after scoring 81.12, behind Johnny Weir of the United States on the sixth with 82.10.

The Olympic men's singles title will be decided on Wednesday when the more heated free skating contentions are on show at the Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver.

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