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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plushenko Dominates Short Program

ReutersRussia's Yevgeny Plushenko jumping in his short program in Washington on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON -- Russian star Yevgeny Plushenko, the only former champion in the field, overcame a bad knee to easily win the short program Tuesday at the World Figure Skating Championships.

A huge favorite entering the event, he did nothing to diminish that role -- although he received a challenge from flu-ridden American Tim Goebel.

Despite winning the world championship two years ago, Plushenko has generally finished behind 2002 Olympic champion and countryman Alexei Yagudin. Yagudin is recovering from a hip injury, making Plushenko the heavy choice for this event, even though he has a sore left knee that he fears will require an injection before the free skate.

"Pain. It hurts," Plushenko said. "But I can skate. Last year, after the Olympic Games I have a problem with my right knee. I couldn't walk on the stairs. So this year I have a problem with my left knee, but I can skate and I can walk.

"So," he added with a laugh, "that's good."

Plushenko was more than good Tuesday, with some superb combination spins and a massive quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

He needed all the strength in his legs to save a triple axel landing, but then he breezed through the rest of his routine to "Adagio." Plushenko earned nothing but 5.7s through 5.9s, ranking first with eight of the nine judges.

"I can skate better, of course," he said. "I can do a triple axel cleaner."

Goebel got the other first-place spot with one of the best short programs of his career, and then headed for the bathroom, feeling ill.

He was sensational, however, on Tuesday, even with his illness. Not only did he do a smooth quadruple salchow-triple toe loop combo -- no one else did a quad salchow -- but one of the cleanest triple axels Goebel's ever managed.

American Michael Weiss, who won his third national title in January despite two so-so programs, was the biggest disappointment. Skating before a hometown crowd, he was pumped as he hit a triple axel and appeared to land a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combo. Replays indicated he two-footed the landing, but Weiss insisted he hit it.

There was no question, though, on his triple lutz, a jump he usually cruises through. This time, he went splat -- and all the air in the building went with him.

A two-time world bronze medalist behind Yagudin and Plushenko in 1999 and 2000, Weiss has struggled on the international scene ever since. But he did win his qualifying group, albeit with a performance that didn't come close to Plushenko's in the other section.

Japan's Takeshi Honda, the 2002 bronze medalist, cut a quad-triple combination to a quad-double. But he did a superb triple lutz and his footwork was both intricate and impressive. He wound up third in the short and is third overall heading into Thursday night's free skate.

Earlier, Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne and Viktor Kraatz won their compulsory dance group, while Russia's Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh took the other.

Bourne and Kraatz have won four bronze medals and one silver at worlds. Lobacheva and Averbukh are the defending champions.

The American couples -- five-time U.S. champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev, and reigning world junior champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto -- both finished fourth in their groups.