Ivan Drago skates toward the sunset

The Sports NetworkFebruary 12, 2014 

(SportsNetwork.com) - Let's spread a rumor that Russian skater Yevgeny Plushenko is responsible for American Evan Lysacek being unable to defend his figure skating gold medal due to a hip injury.

Everybody in figure skating would believe it.

That sinister Plushenko, yeah, he's to blame. He's the biggest villain in the sport since Tonya Harding.

You can throw on your warmest red, white and blue sweater on Thursday, leave the Jeff Gillooly snow shovel in the garage for another day, find your good- luck spot on the couch and tune in to cheer on Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown in the men's short program. Yeah, go, USA, and all that.

But really, that would be only half the fun. The attention will be on Plushenko. The creaky, cranky 31-year-old figure skating dinosaur will surely do something, or say something, that will get under your crawl.

Of course, Ric Flair in skates has made it fun at the Sochi Games already. Will he or won't he skate in the men's competition had been a lingering question leading up to the games. You know, the aging star refusing to listen to Father Time.

Plushenko has battled back and knee injuries for some time, even has four screws in his back from an operation last year, which just adds to his legend.

Some people thought the injuries might stop Plushenko after skating in the new team event last weekend, but after he helped Russia to a first-place showing, which gave him a second gold and a record-tying fourth medal of his storied career, was there any doubt he would keep himself in the individual competition? The pain that flared up in his back during the weekend, that was for sissies like Ivan Drago.

Plushenko no doubt will be the crowd favorite Thursday and then Friday with the free program, but, oh, would the story line have been better if this was Lake Placid or Salt Lake City. Plushenko would have complained about everything from the weather to NBC's Olympic coverage to Obamacare.

Plushenko has spent a career marking his mark as a male diva. It's hard to overshadow the four Olympic medals, seven European championships and three world titles, but his cockiness and surliness sure give it a shot.

He can even rile the home folk. He lost his eligibility in 2010 due to participating in skating shows without the Russian Figure Skating Federation's approval. He got it back later that year and went on to win the 2012 European Championships.

But that last major international win doesn't compare to the spotlight of Sochi. Plushenko probably thinks he has to give the Russian crowd the honor of watching him skate one last time.

If nothing else, he has to make up for the silver medal from the 2010 Vancouver Games. Silver? Not in his mind.

Plushenko skated the more difficult routine than Lysacek, who won the gold with a flawless performance. And about those American Idol judges ...

"I was positive that I won," Plushenko said through a translator (ever the more villainous). "But I suppose Evan needs a medal more than I do. Maybe it's because I already have one. But I have to share with you, two silver and one Olympic gold medal is not too bad."

Oh, yes, Plushenko made a show of himself by walking across the gold podium with further disdain toward the results.

Now Evgeni Plushenko gets to walk toward his Russian sunset. He's no longer the favorite for the gold, but if he doesn't win, clearly the judges will be wrong again.

At least that's what he would say.

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