x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Winter Olympics round-up: Plushenko adds drama to the ice

American snowboarder Shaun White pulls out of slopestyle event and Austria's Bernhard Gruber wants to play air guitar in Sochi.

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia skates during a figure skating training session on Wednesday in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Iceberg Skating Palace. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Evgeni Plushenko of Russia skates during a figure skating training session on Wednesday in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Iceberg Skating Palace. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Evgeni Plushenko, the Russian figure skater, is one of the more controversial and colourful athletes here, and he goes into action for Russia on Thursday night in the first round of the new team competition, which comes ahead of Opening Ceremonies on Friday.

Plushenko, 31, a gold-medallist in 2006, was added to the Russia team despite performing poorly in the national championships, and will skate his short programme.

Russia, Canada, Japan and the US are the medal favourites. Canada’s Patrick Chan said of Plushenko: “It is drama-filled. I mean, who would have thought that after the results at Russian nationals and Europeans that the decision was made to send him?”

Slopestyle

The American snowboarding star Shaun White pulled out of the slopestyle event at the Sochi Games on Wednesday due to concerns that the course is too dangerous.

The double half-pipe Olympic champion said he did not want to risk his chances of winning a third half-pipe gold medal.

“With the practice runs I have taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on,” he said.

White’s decision came after Norway’s medal hope Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone in a practice run.

Two Canadian slopestyle medal hopefuls mocked White for withdrawing from the competition.

Sebastien Toutant tweeted: “Mr. White … It’s easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can’t win.” Maxence Parrot wrote: “Shaun knows he won’t be able to win the slopes, thats why he pulled out. He’s scared!”

Bobsleigh

Jamaica’s bobsleigh team reached Sochi without luggage and equipment, but said they would compete even if they have to borrow gear from rivals.

Winston Watts, pilot of the two-man sled, said: “We’ve got nothing. Helmets, spikes, Lycra suits, everything is somewhere between JFK and Sochi.”

Figure skating

Japan’s Mao Asada on Wednesday said she is ready for another Olympic figure-skating showdown with her South Korean rival Kim Yuna, who beat her for gold at Vancouver in 2010.

“The time has come. That’s how I feel,” she said.

Asada and Kim, each 23, say they will retire after these Games.

Nordic combined

If Austria’s Bernhard Gruber performs well in the Nordic combined event, he will celebrate in style. A passionate fan of music, Gruber plays in a band named the Telemarkers and has a trademark celebration.

“When I make a really good jump, after I land I take off my skis and play some air guitar with my skis,” he said.

Speed skating

Canada’s short-track speed skaters believe a new skin-tight suit could propel them to Olympic gold.

“It is secret, so I can’t really tell you much,” said Charles Hamelin, a double gold medallist in 2010.

“These little differences between teams help a lot. It is based on the aerodynamics of the fabric. We have the best skinsuits we have ever had. … We are told this suit is faster and more comfortable. Knowing that in our minds will make us faster in competition.”

Slalom

Marcel Hirscher, the Austria slalom star, said he will spend a week recovering from a gruelling World Cup schedule, including 10 races in four weeks, before travelling to Sochi.

“Everything hurts,” he said. “January has left its mark.”

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