Plushenko, 27, still sporting his signature blond mullet, is hoping to become the first Russian to win back-to-back Olympic championships in men's figure skating. The only other skater to claim that feat was the U.S.'s Dick Button in 1952. After his first Olympic gold, at the 2006 Games, Plushenko took a two-year break from competitive skating, becoming a father and getting divorced before deciding to return to the rink. But a knee injury is making the leap to the podium difficult; he was scratched from a couple of competitions this season, yet still managed to take the Russian national championship for the eighth time in December, after training for only five days. Still, he wasn't satisfied with his performance. "I'd give myself a three out of five today," he said. He was a bit happier about recapturing the European Championships less than a month later, displaying some of his old Olympic magic by landing two quadruple-triple jump combinations. A native of Khabarovsk, one of the coldest and most remote regions of the Russian Far East, Plushenko is fully aware of the still bigger competition ahead. "The most important thing now is to reach my peak at the Olympic Games."
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