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Russia wins team figure skating, 1st gold of Sochi

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Russia Rules.

The host nation won its first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics on Sunday night in the new event of team figure skating. The resurgence of Russia's once dominant figure skating machine was led by veteran Evgeni Plushenko and teenager Julia Lipnitskaia.

In an Iceberg arena packed with their exulting countrymen, including President Vladimir Putin, the Russians skated away from Canada and the United States to win the gold before the final free dance even started.

In no discipline did they finish worse than third in compiling 75 points to 65 for Canada and 60 for the Americans.

It was a rout built on the experience of Plushenko, the consummate showman who now owns medals from four Olympics - his two gold and two silver are a record for modern-era figure skaters.

It was capped by the freshness of the 15-year-old Lipnitskaia, who donned a Russia baseball cap when she was done with her sublime tour of the ice, sat with her triumphant teammates and grinned like the school kid she is.

"I was calm," Lipnitskaia said, adding it was her coaches, parents and teammates who were nervous.

It didn't matter that some other countries sat out their top skaters or that the Russians did the same in pairs and dance. It never really was a contest.

"I'm 31 and I'm happy gold, silver or bronze," Plushenko said.

The Americans' bronze effort was led by world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won both the short and free dance, and helped by national champion Gracie Gold's superb free skate, which the judges scored second behind Lipnitskaia.

Canada didn't win any segment, but built enough points throughout to take silver.

But those are just details. This was a night for a Russian show that might be celebrated as much as the Bolshoi.

It signals the country's return to the top of a sport it once owned. As the Soviet Union or Russia, the host nation had won 51 Olympic figure skating medals. But there were no golds in Vancouver four years ago, a first since the country was blanked in 1960.

Now, after one event, Russia stands atop the medals podium.

All 10 of its skaters who participated in the team content stood at attention together on the top platform during the flowers presentation, and every fan in the Iceberg - including Putin, wearing a red fleece with logos of two Russian companies and a brand of French sunglasses - celebrated along with them.

It's a place the sensational Lipnitskaia could regularly visit, just as Plushenko has for more than a decade. Her routine to "Schindler's List" was mesmerizing. With maturity and grace beyond her years, she clearly was never bothered by her surroundings on this golden night for Russia.

"She is a genius," Plushenko said.

Give Plushenko plenty of credit, too. He says he's had 12 surgeries. He barely competed after finishing second to American Evan Lysacek in 2010 at the Vancouver Games. And he had to convince his federation he deserved to be in Sochi after finishing second at the national championships.

Mission accomplished, with a golden hue.

"This games is the hardest for me," he said. "All the fans are cheering so hard that you literally cannot do badly because they do everything with you. You get goose bumps."

Skating to "Best of Plushenko," there were mistakes in his jumps and not much in between them aside from the required footwork. No, it was not his best, but he scored 168.20 points.

That was good enough with three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada and short program winner Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan taking the night off to rest for the upcoming individual men's event. They were replaced by the lower-ranked Kevin Reynolds and Tatsuki Machida, respectively, and they finished second and third.

American Jason Brown of Highland Park, Ill., was fourth.

Davis and White beat their top rivals and training partners, defending champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, in both dance disciplines.

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bwaymike February 11 2014 at 12:55 AM

Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold were both underscored. The real problem was, once again, Jeremy Abbott who continues to fall apart in International events. The Russians, as always, were over scored. We've had a few wonderful years with the new scoring system that didn't hold them up like in the old days...but here we go again. And even worse, the games are being held in Russia. I hope we won't be back to ridiculous results like Oksana Baiul two footing every jump and winning or Alexi Urmanov who was a complete joke. Or Sultsakaya with her bow legs and round shoulders or Butenskaya who fell constantly and was given a world championship over Michele Kwan once or those laughable, over the top Russian Ice Dancers of old.

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sgrenillo February 10 2014 at 12:21 PM

Did anyone beside me notice that NBC quit showing their commentators (Lupinski and ??) after the guy started the show in a frilly affair of a shirt that I thought was a jab at Russia's policy against gay messaging?

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MICHAEL February 10 2014 at 12:03 PM

oooooh, ahhhhh, figure skating . . . .
a nation to be feared and admired.

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Brutal February 10 2014 at 11:59 AM

NBC is fawning over the Russians. Talking about what a great country and people ... yada-yada. The Russians are not our friends. They are and most likely will always be our enemies until one of us is gone. Their leader is a thug by all reasonable parameters. Their goal is to thwart the US at every turn and be against our best interests at whatever the costs. There is nothing beautiful about Russia if you are a freedom loving person ... unless of course you just have a pig fetish. Right now, all they offer the world is their oil and mineral resources and of course, their number one export … the criminal enterprises of the Russian Mob.

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kathubodva February 10 2014 at 5:46 PM

gee when I read you comment I could have sworn you were unfortunately talking about the US and our thug of a "leader"... and what do you know of the Russian Mob... probably just another individual talking through this @%%

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sydno1 February 11 2014 at 12:13 AM

You know nothing of which you speak! Learn something about a topic before you spout off, making only yourself look ignorant

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kevin.osborne1 February 10 2014 at 11:54 AM

Strange how some of them can fall one or two times during their routine and STILL have a higher score then those who seem to skate without a problem. How does that work!

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2 replies to kevin.osborne1's comment
MICHAEL February 10 2014 at 12:05 PM

well, they have to be good a something. its a little emarrassing when the host country that has just spent 5 bazillion dollars, has no gold medals and the rest of the world does......

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David February 10 2014 at 1:18 PM

There is an answer to this but you may not still feel it is fair. This used to happen when a Canadian skater would fall repeatedly and still get high marks. They are awarded many points for inbetween skating and many skaters are very good at that and get lots of points there when it appears because of the falls they shouldn't . Remember there is only a one point deduction for each fall but you can make that up with the GOE or grade of execution in the footwork and maybe some other items that were clean. Do I agree with this method? No but that is why that happens. The system needs revamping again. Don't hold your breath.

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lastandtwo February 10 2014 at 11:18 AM

Depends on who owns the ox that was kicked?? I didn't see any major errors in the old guys routine-I dont have the films to compare it with, do you???///

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jmcwholesale February 10 2014 at 11:15 AM

The judges are being biased with their scores.... they have definitely underscored USA... particuarly Gracie Gold. Abbot choked in the men's short.... (god did we see this coming - he did in the last olympics - very disappointing) IF he had skated perfect, we may had a good chance at Silver. But taking into consideration that Jason Brown did NOT have a quad in his long program, leaves us wanting.... Let's hope that they got all the nerves out of their system for the Team Event and go for gold in the regular events.

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provhotguy2013 February 10 2014 at 11:16 AM

Spot on!

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marygracen February 10 2014 at 11:13 AM

Really.....what did you expect they are in Russia and they are Russians. Totally unfair but nothing anyone can do. We just know better.

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ginias1 February 10 2014 at 10:37 AM

If we blink the russkis will kick our ass.. They have a great dealk more discipline than we and are dedicated to their country...

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jmcwholesale February 10 2014 at 11:12 AM

That is so not true..... my daughter is a competitive figure skater and I can assure you and everyone else, that our kids work just as hard if not harder. Russia got lucky on some of their scores.... Abbott was a flop - he choked.

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Mimi February 10 2014 at 10:25 AM

Haters are out in full force today....why not enjoy the beauty of the moment......?
Dazzling skaters, graceful and magical on ice.....what's not to like...?
Positive comments are easy if you simply enjoy the sport and the talented and rare people
who are dedicated to excellence. Go USA !

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