Following yet another gold-medal performance, complete with what some would characterize as arrogant behaviour, figure skater Evgeni Plushenko came clean.
"I have to work on my spins, work on my steps," the 26-year-old Russian said after capturing the men's title at the Cup of Russia in Moscow. It was Plushenko's first international event since the 2006 Turin Olympics.
He performed only one quad, something of a shortage by Plushenko's old standards, but combined it with a triple toe loop to open his program with unquestionable brio.
After landing a double Axel, Plushenko raised his right arm and with one finger signalled he was the world's No. 1 skater.
Plushenko chose tango music for his flirtatious and challenging stop-start moves in the step sequences, playing up the confidence he projects on the ice. But he wasn't inclined to let overconfidence undermine his discipline.
Plushenko, who's had chronic knee problems, returned to skating to help Russia turn around its plummeting fortunes on the ice.
Takahiko Kozuka of Japan took silver, followed by Artem Borodulin of Russia, who earned his first Grand Prix medal. An error-infested program dropped American Johnny Weir to sixth in the free skate and fourth overall.
Shawn Sawyer of Edmundston, N.B., was seventh in the free skate and eighth overall.
In the pairs, Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China won gold.
Mylene Brodeur of Stanbridge-Station, Que., and John Mattatall of Wallace, N.S., were fourth in the free skate and finished sixth overall.
Kozuka, whose own quad was downgraded after he stepped out of it, was pleased with his program but felt Plushenko's dominance even before the Russian started skating.
"The moment he took the ice, I knew there was a real champion in front of me," said the 20-year Kozuka, whose free program to an electric guitar concerto showed impressive speed and tight sit spins.
Borodulin was close behind Weir going into the free skate and admitted that the possibility of beating the American, who has numerous fans in Russia, was daunting.
"[In practice] I started to feel nervous … but I got a bit of sleep and woke up completely calm," Borodulin said. He opened with a solid triple Axel-triple toe combo, then fell on a triple Axel, but recovered his composure and included a triple-double-double cascade.
Weir was in trouble from the opening seconds, when his planned toe loop was replaced with a triple flip. He doubled two subsequent triple Axels and ended disconsolately, taking many seconds to raise himself from his ending kneeling position. He was sixth in the free skate.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States won gold in ice dancing. Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy won the silver, followed by Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer of Russia.
The Rostelecom Cup is the second of six International Skating Union Grand Prix stages.