J. Barry Mittan, the Electronic Photojournalist

Evgeni Plushenko by J. Barry Mittan (1998)

This year's teen skating sensation has been 17-year-old Evgeni Plushenko of Russia. Many analysts were stunned when Plushenko took the silver at Skate America, but the 1997 World Junior champion showed the medal was no fluke by finishing second at the Cup of Russia. Plushenko was the youngest man to qualify for the Champions Series Final in Munich, where he finished fifth, even while still suffering from the effects of a back muscle sprain suffered at the Cup of Russia. Coming off a third place finish at the Russian Nationals, Plushenko skated two superb programs at the Europeans to finish a close second behind teammate Alexei Yagudin.

Plushenko missed the Olympics by finishing third at Russian Nationals behind Ilia Kulik and Yagudin, but got the opportunity to compete at the 1998 World Championships in Minneapolis when Kulik, the Olympic champion, withdrew. He was second in the qualifiers, first after the technical, and fourth in the free skate, finishing third overall in his first Worlds.

Evgeni started skating when he was 4 because he had colds all the time and his mother thought he needed more exercise. Since she liked figure skating and had friends at the rink, she took him for lessons even though Evgeni said "when I started with figure skating, I didn't like it." But he had a natural talent and soon was skating for a sports club in Volgograd. When the rink closed four years ago, Plushenko moved to St. Petersburg, where he is now coached by Alexei Mishin. For this season, Plushenko used Spanish melodies for his "Paso Doble" short program and music by Jean Michel Jarre for his free skate. Both Edvard Smirnov and Evgeni Seryovhnikov choreographs his programs.

Technically, Plushenko is far ahead of the other men at the same stage. He does all the triples with ease and completed his first quadruple toe loop and quad toe/triple toe combination in practice when he was 14. He's also landed a quad flip, but said "my quad salchow is no good." Plushenko landed his first quad toe/triple toe combination in his long program at the European Championships although he had a toe touch on the landing of the quad.

Plushenko is also the only man able to do a Biellmann spin and includes the element in both his long and short programs. "After I had been skating only six months, I saw a girl doing the spin and I liked it. My mother stretched me and I did exercises so I could do it. I used to do it on either foot, but I hurt my back so now I only do it on the right foot," Plushenko explained.

Evgeni's favorite skater is Viktor Petrenko, whom he admires for his choreography as well as his jumps. Plushenko hopes to follow Petrenko into the ranks of touring professionals once he finishes his eligible career, which he hopes will include the 2002 Olympics. Evgeni said "I skate for both the judges and the people. I want to go and do a better job than anybody. Right now I don't like to think about the future. I just want to compete and show people that I can skate to many different styles. Maybe when I finish skating I'll look at something else, but I don't like to study."

Off ice, Plushenko likes to listen to play pool, soccer, tennis, and computer games. He also likes to fish. Although he listens to many different types of music, religious music is among his favorites. Sometimes he said he just "walks on the streets and goes into the shops" or spends time with his girlfriend. Videos are one of his passions. Evgeni loves to watch movies, especially action movies like Men in Black, his current favorite. Plushenko likes to travel, but has only been to the United States twice, to Detroit and Minneapolis. He doesn't get much time off. "For holidays, we just go to a different place to skate," he says.

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