MOSCOW — Former Olympic champion Yevgeny Plushenko enjoyed a winning return to the amateur ranks on Monday when he claimed a ninth Russian figure skating title. The 29-year-old three-time world champion, who finished second behind America’s Evan Lysacek at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, confirmed his leading position after the short program by winning the free program to collect 269.67 points overall. The result was just 0.63 points off the mark of Canada’s Patrick Chan which allowed him to win this year’s ISU Grand Prix final. “Frankly speaking I almost forgot how to compete,” Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic champion, said.
“I’m still on the way to my top form and there’s plenty of work to do for it. I’m happy to win my ninth Russia title and now I will start my preparations for the European championships.” Plushenko, returning to amateur competitions after his 2010 Vancouver disappointment, added that he would have to undergo surgery on his left leg after next month’s European championships in Sheffield. “I will have an operation on my leg after the European championships — I will be completely ready for the event,” he said. Fellow Saint Petersburg skater Artur Gachinsky was second, 10 points behind the winner, while Muscovite Sergei Voronov, who was fifth after the short program, took third with 240.79 points. Plushenko’s coach Alexei Mishin praised his skater’s return at the event held at Saransk. “Yevgeny put plenty of effort and emotion into this return. It’s a real feat,” he said.