Plushenko, Lipnitskaia lead Russia to first gold in Sochi

Plushenko, Lipnitskaia lead Russia to first gold in Sochi

SOCHI - Agence France-Presse
Plushenko, Lipnitskaia lead Russia to first gold in Sochi

Russia's Yevgeny Plushenko performs in the Men's Figure Skating Team Short Program at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb 6. AFP photo

National idol Yevgeny Plushenko and rising star Julia Lipnitskaia got hosts Russia off the mark on Feb. 9 sealing gold in the inaugural team figure skating team at the Sochi Olympics.

It was a fourth Olympic medal for the 31-year-old but his achievement was almost overshadowed by Lipnitskaia, who sealed gold at the age of just 15 to euphoria at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Watched by President Vladimir Putin, Russia took a precious gold on home soil even before the final round - the ice dance free dance.

Ice dancers Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov then stepped up and placed third behind Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

The hosts won five of the eight sections over three days of competition to take gold with 75 points. Canada took silver with 65 with the United States bronze medallists with 60.

"I'm 31 years and this means everything to me. It's so much history," said 2006 Olympic champion and two-time silver medallist Plushenko.

He joins Swede Gillis Grafstroem as the only skater to win four figure skating medals -- three in gold -- between 1920 and 1932.

"To repeat the same results in new times is different. But I don't want to put him higher than Grafstroem," said Plushenko's coach Alexei Mishin.

Plushenko landed a quad but went away with his planned programme to "The Best of Plushenko" fragments of his performances over the years.

He scored 168.20 for the free skate with Kevin Reynold achieving 167.92 and Japan's Tatsuki Machida 165.85.

But whether he will compete in the individual event is uncertain as he complained of a pain in his back after his performance.

"First I have to rest and talk to the doctors, perhaps implant some more stuff into my back," said Plushenko who had surgery on his back last year.

The three-time world champion admitted that he was more worried about his teammates, some of whom were inexperienced at the Olympics.

"They are all very strong skaters but some of them were skating for the first time (at the Olympic Winter Games) so I was a little bit nervous for them."

Despite her inexperience Lipnitskaia outshone her more experienced teammate who won his first world medal before she was born.

To the music of "Schindler's List" she skated sublimely to score a personal best 141.51 and to seal the title ahead of America's Gracie Gold and Italy's Valentina Marchei 112.51.

"I was a little bit nervous after Yevgeny got first because I didn't want to let the team down," said Lipnitskaia.

"He was very happy for me at the end and congratulated me in the kiss and cry. My main motivation today was not to let the team down."