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Gachinski edges Plushenko for win in short

No quad for Plushy, who will undergo meniscus surgery after event

Artur Gachinki is barely leading Evgeni Plushenko after the short program.
Artur Gachinki is barely leading Evgeni Plushenko after the short program. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(01/26/2012) - World bronze medalist Artur Gachinski holds a razor-thin .09-point lead over Evgeni Plushenko after the short program at the European Figure Skating Championships in Sheffield.

Gachinski, who like Plushenko trains under Alexei Mishin in St. Petersburg, Russia, performed a near-clean program, including a quad toe-triple toe combination, a slightly flawed a triple Axel and a triple loop. He had the highest technical elements score of the event.

"I think this was my best-ever skate," Gachinski said. "I did all the jumps, the spins and the footwork as I had planned. I basically expected such a performance, as I was ready for the short program.

"Right now I feel only that I am the leader in the short program. The free skating is still to come, and everything can change."

Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic champion, skated a clean program with a good triple Axel, a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a triple loop but did not include a quad. He did, however, gain high components scores, ranging up to 9.50.

"My knee hurts heavily when I do a quad jump," said Plushenko, who hit a quad toe in the qualifying round. "I would need to rest for three minutes to get the pain down, therefore I left it out today. Next week I will have to undergo meniscus surgery."

At age 29, Plushenko is 10 years older than his training partner.

Many other medal candidates made serious mistakes in their programs. Czech Tomas Verner, who sits third with 81.14 points, two-footed the landing of his quad toe loop, but otherwise skated clean.

"It was a disappointing opening to the program," Verner said. "[After] I missed the quad, I knew I've been struggling with the triple Axel in practice, so I felt I didn't have anything to look forward to. But then the program got better."

As usual, Spain's Javier Fernandez performed an excellent quad toe loop but made a three-turn out of his triple Lutz [done in combination with a triple toe loop] and stepped out of his triple Axel. He is fourth with 80.11 points.

Defending European champion Florent Amodio of France is fifth with 78.48 points after stepping out of his quad Salchow and performing only a triple Lutz-double toe combination.

"I am still dealing with my back injury since French nationals, but I get massage every day and I am feeling good and I have no concerns for competing," Amodio said.

The Frenchman recently changed his short program music, to Hans Zimmer's Tears of the Sun.

"The old program [to Gershwin's "Summertime"] was good, but I didn't get the feeling I wanted," Amodio said. "I wanted to prepare the best way for the world championships in Nice, therefore we changed the program. I need to be ready for worlds, which is the most important competition for me."

Another Czech, Michal Brezina, fell on the quad Salchow and did a three-turn in his combination. He is sixth with 76.13 points.

Amodio's countryman, Brian Joubert, the former world champion who has medaled at Europeans all 10 times he has competed, missed the quad and triple Axel and sits 10th with 67.92 points.

"I am well prepared, but this morning and in the competition, I had no feeling for the ice," Joubert said.