After helping Russia to win gold in the first ever Olympic team figure skating event at Sochi 2014, Evgeni Plushenko equalled the 80-year old record for a male skater of four Olympic medals, set by Sweden’s Gillis Grafström.
Evgeni Plushenko took his first steps on the ice at the tender age of four. Training alongside his future rival, Alexei Yagudin under the watchful gaze of coach, Alexei Mishin, the young prodigy went on to win a bronze medal at the World Championships when he was just 15.
Silver lining in Salt Lake City
In 2001, Plushenko enjoyed a dazzling season, becoming Russian, European and world champion. These triumphs made him the favourite going into the Salt Lake City Winter Games in 2002. Despite an error in the short programme, when attempting a quadruple-triple, his performance in the free programme to the music from Carmen was pitch perfect, and catapulted him up the leaderboard. Unfortunately, it was not quite enough to close the gap on Yagudin, who won gold, leaving Plushenko to take the silver.
Top of the world
For a three-year spell between 2003 and 2006, the Russian was absolutely dominant, adding three European Championship titles, two World Championship crowns and three national titles to his growing collection of honours. However, there was disappointment in 2005, when the world skating championships were held in Moscow, and he was denied the chance of triumph in front of his home fans when injury forced him to withdraw from the competition after the short programme.
Virtuoso in Turin
After completing his recovery, Plushenko went on to dazzle the crowd and judges at the Palavela Arena at Turin 2006, showcasing his creative and technical brilliance to the full. In the short programme he started with a superbly executed quadruple jump and went on to deliver an absolute masterclass to the music from Tosca, to lead the competition going into the long programme, where his performance to the soundtrack from The Godfather was every bit as breathtaking and earned him his first Olympic title.
Absence makes the drive grow stronger
Following his victory in Turin, Plushenko decided to take a break from competition for two seasons. He returned in 2009, and the following year he won another European Championship title before turning his focus to a defence of his Olympic title in Vancouver. Leading after the short programme, the Russian eventually had to settle for silver, after being overhauled by the USA’s Evan Lysacek in the free programme.
Making history in Sochi
Crowned European champion for the seventh time in January 2012 in Sheffield (GBR), a year later Plushenko took time out to undergo back surgery before starting his preparations for Sochi 2014. A wonderful virtuoso display at the Iceberg Skating Palace on 9 February helped Russia secure gold in the first ever team event. It gave Plushenko a fourth Olympic medal, equalling the record for a male figure skater set by Sweden’s Gillis Grafström 80 years earlier. And the Russian looked set to go one better in the individual men’s competition, but unfortunately another back injury forced him to withdraw ahead of the short programme and he decided to bring down the curtain on a glorious competitive skating career.