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Three men eyeing date with destiny at the Iceberg Skating Palace

Three men eyeing date with destiny at the Iceberg Skating Palace
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12/02/2014

Double Olympic gold medallist Yevgeny Plushenko, three-time world champion Patrick Chan, and teenage rising star Yuzuru Hanyu all have Winter Games history in their sights when they compete to top the podium in the men’s individual figure skating at the Iceberg Skating Centre.

Plushenko, 31, is looking to become the most medalled man in Olympic figure skating history while Canada's Chan, 23, and Hanyu, 19, could become the first men from their countries to win the men's title.

Chan came into the Games as favourite but has lost ground after struggling to third in the men's short programme in the team event in which Hanyu gave an outstanding display to lead Plushenko.

"It was good to get the jitters out," said Chan, who holds world record scores in both the free skate and overall total, but was overtaken by Hanyu in the short programme this season.

Vancouver 2010 silver medallist Plushenko is determined to go one better on home ice, and will begin the individual competition boosted by a gold-medal winning performance for Russia in the team event.

Plushenko eyes medal record

That team gold saw him match Gillis Grafstroem's record four medals, having already won gold in 2006 and silver in 2002 and 2010.

Another medal would see Plushenko overtake the Swede, who won his four Olympic medals between 1920 and 1932, as the most medalled man in figure skating history.

And he admits that the prospect of another medal is driving him to continue raising the bar in a programme that is set to be packed with spectacular features.

“I love being first,” he says. “This is my fourth Olympic Games, and I am so happy I can compete, whatever medal I get.

“I'm going to try two quads. I have a triple axel-triple flip combination in my pocket, which is a great combination and one which no one else in the world has done,” he adds.

World champion Chan wants Olympic gold

Chan, meanwhile, has dominated the sport since finishing fifth in Vancouver and has won the last three world titles.

However, Hanyu beat Chan in the Grand Prix final and should also have a major say in the destination of the medals, as may his compatriots Daisuke Takahashi who took bronze in Vancouver and Tatsuki Machida, not to mention Spaniard Javier Fernandez, a bronze medallist at the Worlds.

"I envied Plushenko for a long time and admired him, so to be able to compete against and defeat Plushenko on the same night is unbelievable,” said Hanyu.

Meanwhile, former Olympic champion Scott Hamilton, who beat Orser to gold at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, believes that the biggest obstacle facing Chan is himself.

“He has got the total package. The only thing that can deny him is him,” said Hamilton, the last man to follow three world championship titles with an Olympic gold.

Hanyu getting closer

“It comes down to the moment. It comes down to how you feel at that specific time,” adds Hamilton who believes the competition has got tougher since Chan won his first world title in Moscow in 2011.

“In Moscow, he was so far above the group. But now Yuzuru Hanyu is getting closer and closer.”

Takahashi, 28, meanwhile has experience of the Sochi ice having won the 2012 Grand Prix final at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

“It's great, I can really feel the ice. I have had a lot of different experiences in the last year, but I still remember that moment when I won here," said the Japanese skater.

Spaniard Fernandez, who trains with Hanyu under the guidance of Orser in Toronto, also believes he has a shot at the podium. And he feels that his jumping skills could give him the edge in Sochi.

“I'm good at jumping. I'm able to do many quads in competition and many big jumps. It's my strongest thing,” says the Spaniard.

The competition gets underway with the short programme on 13 February, with the free skating final taking place on the following day.

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