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Plushenko Tangos His Way to European Gold

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Evgeny Plushenko tangoed his way to European championships gold on Saturday, emphatically announcing his return to the international scene with a near perfect free skate that left the competition trailing in his masterful wake.

Evgeny Plushenko tangoed his way to European championships gold on Saturday, emphatically announcing his return to the international scene with a near perfect free skate that left the competition trailing in his masterful wake.

The 29-year-old Russian suppressed the pain of a knee and back injury to execute a glorious succession of jumps and spins that began with a textbook quadruple toe loop, earning first place from compatriot Artur Gachinsky in second and Florent Amodio of France in third.

“I did today a good job, I skated very well, and I am proud of myself, believe me. … What can I say? I’m so happy, I’m really happy,” Plushenko said, earning a seventh European title.

Plushenko, in a glitter-laden tuxedo, performed a silky routine set to Tango de Roxanne, earning a total of 176.52 points from the judges. Gachinsky was a full 15 points behind, while Amodio was another six points back.

The performance vindicates Plushenko’s decision to return to international competition for the first time since winning silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics; with the aim of representing Russia at the country’s first Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.

Plushenko has said he will pass up the potential next stage in his comeback, the March world championships in Nice, France, to get much-needed surgery on his left knee in Munich. The ligament damage that has had the six-time world champion in constant pain this week.

“I think when I’m gonna be healthy I can skate even better,” Plushenko said.

Plushenko had been slightly outshone by his apprentice Gachinsky in Thursday's short program after the 18-year-old became the only competitor to land a clean quad and lead the field.

Plushenko had skated a clean but cautious short program, opting against a quad to safeguard his knee for Saturday's final, where the Russian set standards that the rest of the talented field just couldn’t match.

Gachinsky, going into the final in first place, impressed in his fantasy-horror routine that included a clean opening quad, but slipped on a late triple loop.

Frenchman Florent Amodio  inspired the crowd with a funky routine that snatched bronze, but he fell out of the running for gold after stepping out of an opening jump.

Perennial challenge Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, last year’s bronze medalist, fell away after slipping on his opening quad, while promising Spaniard Javier Fernandez aborted an axel in an otherwise sumptuous routine.

Plushenko returned to domestic competition in December, winning the Russian national championships in Saransk against largely unheralded opponents with an untidy performance.

He has been absent from the international circuit since Vancouver due to a disqualification over a breach of amateur competition rules and various injuries.

He received special dispensation from skating authorities to take part in Sheffield after failing to accrue enough points in competition this season.

The results bring Russia's medal haul at the championships to seven after a podium sweep in the pairs on Thursday and a silver and bronze in Friday's ice dance.

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