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Last call from London: Plushy pops off on Twitter

Tobias 'hopeful' on citizenship; Miner staying patient with quad

Once Evgeni Plushenko is fully recovered from the back surgery he underwent in January, he intends to begin his drive to compete at his fourth Olympic Games.
Once Evgeni Plushenko is fully recovered from the back surgery he underwent in January, he intends to begin his drive to compete at his fourth Olympic Games. (twitter.com/yanarudkovskaya)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/22/2013) - Not all the news out of the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, made it into our "London Calling" reports. Here's a potpourri from out of the cupboards.

Plushenko gearing up for Sochi run

Ari Zakarian, longtime business associate and manager to Evgeni Plushenko, reported that Plushenko was in Israel this month so doctors there could check on his progress. The 2006 Olympic champion underwent disc-replacement back surgery there in January.

"He just went for the second observation of his health, and the doctors think it is going well," Zakarian said last week in London. "The wound is healing in a good direction, and he can slowly start training again. He expects to return to the ice the first week of May."

After falling on his triple Axel and placing sixth in the short program, Plushenko withdrew from the 2013 European Figure Skating Championships, citing back pain. Earlier this season, he won his 10th Russian title.

"I told him, 'Why are you going to Europeans? To win your eighth title? You have nothing left to prove. Just rest and train for the [2014 Olympics] in Sochi,'" Zakarian said. "But he insisted to compete."

Plushenko watched the world championships and had strong feelings, at least about the men's event. He criticized Canadian Patrick Chan's victory via Twitter, attributing it to the strength of his federation, and called silver medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan "the real champion."

"Of course, he is watching the competition -- he wishes he could have been here -- but at his age (30) pretty much every athlete has a problem with health and injuries," Zakarian said. "To show good quality at that age is very difficult. He respects the performance of Brian Joubert here; he cheered for his performance, because he knows how tough it is."

Plushenko's longtime rival Joubert, 28, placed fifth in the short after landing a quad toe-double toe combination and triple Axel. He slipped to 10th in the free skate after two of his jumps were called under-rotated and his second triple flip was ruled invalid, because he had already repeated two types of jumps (quad toe and triple Salchow) twice. The Frenchman placed ninth overall.

Despite the surgery, Zakarian said Plushenko hopes and expects to compete in Sochi, to put a cap on his historic career, which also includes Olympic silver medals in 2002 and 2010. If he does compete in Sochi, he will be the sole Russian man, and will be expected to compete on the individual side and in the new team event. Maxim Kovtun placed 17th in London, qualifying just one men's spot.

"He will do everything in his power to compete in Sochi," Zakarian said.

It ain't over till it's over

Isabella Tobias, the New York-born ice dancer who competes for Lithuania with partner Deividas Stagniunas, had a double dose of good news in London: The team's 15th-place finish qualified an ice dance spot for Lithuania at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and has also prompted the country's Citizenship Committee to take a second look at her citizenship application.

In January, Tobias' request for Lithuanian citizenship was denied by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. Although the Lithuanian constitution allows an individual "with great merits" to receive Lithuanian citizenship, it was determined that Tobias did not meet that standard. Citizenship is required to represent a country in Olympic competition.

Now, with an Olympic ice dance entry standing at the ready, Tobias thinks Grybauskaite may reconsider.

"It is in [Grybauskaite's] hands; she was the one who decided I wasn't exceptional enough," Tobias, 21, said. "Now we've qualified an Olympic spot. I can't imagine that there could still be an objection.

"Also, just in the past week, my great-uncle is sending proof to Lithuania that I have Lithuanian relatives in my ancestry."

Tobias teamed with Stagniunas in 2010, and the skaters train in Igor Shpilband's Novi, Mich., group. Last season, they won a bronze medal at Skate America and placed ninth at the 2012 European Figure Skating Championships. Stagniunas' back trouble has limited their results this season, and they were forced to withdraw from the 2013 European Championships.

Granting Tobias' citizenship would give Lithuanian native Stagniunas, 28, perhaps his final chance to compete at the Olympics. In 2010, his then partner Katherine Copely was denied Lithuanian citizenship.

Tobias traveled to the Lithuanian capitol of Vilnius in December to be interviewed, and also passed a Lithuanian language test with flying colors, but the Citizenship Committee decided against her application.

"I think it is because we don't train in Lithuania, but the country just doesn't have the facilities and the coaching we would need," she said. "Other Lithuanian athletes train outside of the country. Polls show the Lithuanian people are definitely in favor of having us compete in the Olympics."

Give Miner's quad some time

U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner, who had set his sights on a top-six finish in London, came away disappointed with his 14th-place showing. Mistakes on his quad Salchow cost the Boston-based skater in competition, although he said he lands it with ease in practices.

"I can do that jump," Miner, 22, said. He connected well with the quad in his free skates at the 2012 NHK Trophy and 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Peter Johansson, who with Mark Mitchell coaches Miner at Skating Club of Boston, thinks next season will be a different story.

"Ross has only had the quad in his program for one season," Johansson said. "If you look at the other boys, they have been doing it for several seasons. It takes time to get used to putting it into competition, and in a way he is still playing catch-up. His mechanics on the jump are good, and it will be there next season."

Reporter's notebook: Zakarian said a big skating show in Kazakhstan is in the works, to coincide with Ten's 20th birthday, which is June 13. ... As at 2012 Skate Canada, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte skated their Carmen free dance back to back with that of Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. It didn't seem to faze the Italians, who finished a career-high fourth in London: "It was a challenge. Of course, we knew it was never going to be easy especially in their home country," Cappellini said. "We tried to use that as a positive motivation for us every day in training, every time with the choreography lessons, to capture more and more the feeling of the characters. Luckily, they were very different interpretations and costumes."