Born on November 3, 1982, in Solnechny, Russia (then part of the Soviet Union), Evgeni Plushenko became one of the most decorated men's figure skating champions in history. From 1999 through 2010, he won an Olympic gold medal, three World Championships and seven European Championships. Plushenko returned from a nearly yearlong ban to win another European title in 2012 before injuries started taking a toll on his performances.
Early Years and Training
Evgeni Viktorovich Plushenko was born on November 3, 1982, in Solnechny, Khabarovsk Krai, Russia (then part of the Soviet Union). He began skating at age 4 after his family moved to Volgograd, and at age 7 he won his first competition.
The Volgograd ice rink closed when Plushenko was 11, and he was sent to train with acclaimed coach Alexei Mishin in St. Petersburg. It was a tough period for the young skater, who lived alone for long stretches and struggled to fit in with the older boys in his group, but Mishin showed compassion by renting a room in St. Petersburg for Plushenko's mother so she could be nearby.
Plushenko won the 1997 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and then quickly made his mark on the senior circuit by claiming the bronze medal at the World Championships the following year. Just 15, he was already demonstrating his transcendent talent with his ability to perform a Biellmann spin, in which the trailing leg is lifted high over the head and grabbed with both hands.
Plushenko won the 1998 Skate Canada International to start an incredible run of dominance that overwhelmed the rest of the men's field. From the start of the 1999 season through the end of 2006, he won three World Championships, five European Championships, four Grand Prix Finals and seven Russian Championships. Athletic and fearlessly inventive, the Russian wonder proved capable of landing gravity-defying combinations that had never been executed in competition.
One noticeable disappointment during this run came at the 2002 Winter Olympics, when he finished second to countryman and rival Alexei Yagudin. But Plushenko had the spotlight to himself during the 2006 Olympics, when he established scoring records in both the short and the long programs to run away with the gold medal.
Plushenko announced a break from competition in 2006 to let his body completely heal from various injuries, but he returned to win the 2010 Russian and European Championships. Aiming for his second Olympic gold medal, he was the only men's skater to cleanly land a quadruple jump during the 2010 Winter Games, but finished just behind American Evan Lysacek to wind up with the silver.
In August 2010, the International Skating Union (ISU) announced that Plushenko was banned from competition for performing in exhibitions without permission. The ban was lifted in June 2011, and Plushenko returned to the winners' podium with victories at the 2012 Russian and European Championships. However, it became clear that years of wear and tear had taken a toll. Plushenko underwent back surgery in November 2012, and again after withdrawing from the European Championships two months later, but was hopeful of returning in time to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Plushenko married Saint Petersburg State University student Maria Ermak in June 2005. They had a son, Egor, the following June, but divorced in February 2008.
After announcing his hiatus from competition in 2006, Plushenko toured Europe as the featured performer in ice shows and tried his hand as a television host. He also became involved in politics, earning election to the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly in 2007 as a member of the A Just Russia political party.
In September 2009, Plushenko married music and media producer Yana Rudkovskaya. She gave birth to their son, Alexander, in January 2013.
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