Russian Skating Legend to Return

NEW YORK -- Yevgeny Plushenko is coming back to rescue Russian figure skating.

The 2006 Olympic gold medalist said Tuesday that he would skate next season after sitting out since the Turin Games.

He was disappointed by the showing of his nation in international events this year, including placing 18th and 19th at last month's world championships.

"After seeing the results of Russian skaters in the world championships in Tokyo, I have decided to go back to competition," said Plushenko, who is in Richmond, Virginia, to begin the Champions on Ice tour. "I want to keep Russian figure skating at a competitive level. I want to bridge the gap so our young skaters have time to train and be competitive, which should be in a few years."

Plushenko also plans to compete at the Vancouver Olympics, something he mentioned he might try after winning at Turin last year.

"I feel strongly that I can be competitive and ready for the 2010 Olympics," Plushenko said. "I am doing triple axels in my show programs on the Russian tour and landing quads in my practice sessions."

Plushenko, 24, said he would continue such difficult elements on the Champions on Ice tour before going into full training for the 2007-08 season. He expects to skate in Grand Prix competitions, as well as the European and world championships.

Plushenko owns three world titles (2001, '03 and '04) and a 2002 Olympic silver medal. His combination of jumping, spins and artistry made him a strong successor to Olympic champions Ilia Kulik and Alexei Yagudin. Plushenko had an intense rivalry with Yagudin in the late 1990s and earlier this decade.

He did not skate in the last three worlds, skipping 2005 because of injury and '06 because he was worn out from the Olympics.

Plushenko has battled knee injuries through the years, but the season off from competition has left him feeling reinvigorated.

While he skated in shows this season, Plushenko watched Russian skaters fail to medal at the worlds. The men, Andrei Lutai and Sergei Voronov, were 18th and 19th. The women, Yelena Sokolova and Arina Martynova, were 13th and 16th. Russia's pairs finished ninth and 11th, and the ice dancers were fifth and eighth. It was Russia's worst showing at the worlds since 1960.

n Two-time Olympic skating medalist Irina Slutskaya will leave the Champions on Ice tour because she is expecting her first child.

Slutskaya, 28, will be staying at her home in Russia during her pregnancy. Slutskaya and her husband, Sergei Mikheyev, are expecting their first child this autumn. Slutskaya married Mikheyev, a Russian fitness instructor, in 1999.