SOCHI, December 6 (R-Sport) - Canada's Patrick Chan said Thursday he expects to face his mercurial rival Evgeni Plushenko at the Winter Olympics in 2014.
Plushenko has been absent from top-level competition since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the last time he faced double world champion Chan, except for winning a seventh European title in January.
"He's kind of like royalty in Russia. In my opinion, Evgeni's going to most likely be at the Olympics in Sochi to represent Russia," Chan said.
"He's very difficult to read and he's a very unique skater because he appears out of nowhere and starts whipping off quads and axels, so it's shocking, something I have to learn to expect."
Plushenko and Chan both appeared at the Japan Open exhibition in October, and Chan said his Russian rival had skated "fairly well."
Under International Skating Union rules, Russia will be allowed one men's singles skater at Sochi 2014, but the country's skating federation has asked to be granted a second spot as the host nation, for which there is no precedent.
There are no Russians in the six-man field for this week's Grand Prix Finals at the Olympic arena, the Iceberg Winter Sports Palace in Sochi, after the country's leading skater Artur Gachinski failed to qualify.
Despite strong early promise, Gachinski has yet to win a senior Grand Prix, but Chan said his Olympic hopes were far from over despite failing to fulfil his potential.
"Maybe two years ago I thought Artur Gachinski would have been the one to go to the Olympics. He's still not out of contention, I think he can still very well go to the Olympics," Chan said, adding he was surprised to see no Russians in the finals field.
"It's a little bit odd that there's no Russian skaters here. I feel a little bit bad for the crowds," he said.