Plushenko Hopes to Return to the Olympics…As Sotnikova’s Coach

Days after finally making his retirement official, Evgeny Plushenko announces he is coaching the reigning Olympic ladies champion.

Three years after he had to pull out of the men’s competition in Sochi, initially said he couldn’t compete anymore, and then retracted that, Evgeny Plushenko has finally given up the ghost. After a long career that involved four Olympics, Olympic golds in the individual event in 2006 and the team event in 2014, and silvers at his other two appearances, it took a long time for him to call it a day. But last week he finally officially declared himself retired, and that he was moving on and into coaching. Now it turns out he’s already got his first high-profile student.

Nobody was sure before this week whether Adelina Sotnikova was going to compete either. Her situation wasn’t like Plushenko’s, in that she wasn’t so pulverized physically as to make it impossible. But since her surprise victory at the 2014 Olympics, she’s only competed during the fall of 2015. At Russian Nationals that December, she failed to qualify for anything in the second half of the season. Meanwhile, the Russian ladies field has gotten deeper and deeper all the time, and the odds of her qualifying for next year’s Olympics have gotten longer and longer. It doesn’t help the situation she’s got a urine sample under investigation, which could get her stripped of her gold.

But it seems she is competing next season, because Plushenko just announced he’s going to coach her. He hasn’t said much more than that yet, but he had already made his goal for next season clear:

Unless we hear he’s coaching some other major contender, that would have to be with Sotnikova.

Although she remains unlikely to qualify for the Olympics. Perhaps things are a little more open now than they were last week, when Evgenia Medvedeva, Anna Pogorilaya, and Maria Sotskova looked like a firm already of-age top three, likely to be challenged only by Alina Zagitova or possibly Polina Tsurskaya, who’ll be old enough for all senior competitions next season. But after Pogorilaya and Sotskova’s disastrous skates at the World Championships, Medvedeva alone stands as frontrunner for one of three Olympic berths for Russian ladies. The other two are open. But besides the four ladies already mentioned, Elena Radionova remains a strong contender, Sotnikova’s 2014 teammate Julia Lipnitskaia will be trying to come back from struggles, as will 2015 World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva. It’s unlikely Sotnikova can beat all but one of them.

And that, of course, is if she is cleared of everything in the current doping investigation. This comeback could stop before it starts.

Still, it’s a good start for Plushenko as a coach. No one ever denied Sotnikova’s being a good skater, but one who needs work to catch back up with the world. And if we don’t see him by the boards at this Olympics, he’s still sure to make one sooner or later.

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