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Yevgeny Plushenko leads after Russian Nationals short program

Evgeni Plushenko

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia performs during the men’s short program at the European Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb on January 24, 22013. AFP PHOTO/HRVOJE POLAN (Photo credit should read HRVOJE POLAN/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

Three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko landed a quadruple-triple jump combination as part of a clean short program to take the early lead at the Russian National Championships on Tuesday.

Plushenko, 31, scored 98.41 points at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace (video here), which will also host the Olympic figure skating events in February.

He opened with a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination and added a triple Axel and a triple Lutz.

Plushenko performed in front of signs and posters that read, “Always The King,” “Tsar on Ice” and “We believe in a dream.” He held both index fingers in the air after finishing his skate.

“I’m happy with my skate today because I did everything that I had planned to,” Plushenko said, according to R-Sport. “I did a quad-triple combination, which was very important for me. I think the jumps were very good.”

“The only thing I need to work on is the spins. I need to add a little bit because they were very weak today.”

Plushenko is expected to be given Russia’s single men’s figure skating Olympic spot. His closest competition is Maksim Kovtun, 18, who finished second at two Grand Prix season events and fifth at the Grand Prix Final earlier this month.

Kovtun earned 93.08 points in the short program Tuesday (video here), second to Plushenko.

The free skate is on Christmas at 7:45 a.m. ET. Plushenko landed three quads in open training Monday.

Plushenko is coming off a left knee injury that forced him to withdraw from a Grand Prix event in Moscow in November. Before that, he won a minor event in Riga, Latvia.

That was his first competition since withdrawing after the short program of the last season’s European Championships in January with a back injury.

In February, Plushenko would try to become the second skater to win four Olympic singles figure skating medals, joining Swede Gillis Grafstrom, who won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.

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