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June 29, 2017

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Plushenko, Lipnitskaia bring home the gold

SOCHI, Russia -- National idol Yevgeny Plushenko and rising star Julia Lipnitskaia got host Russia off the mark on Sunday, sealing gold in the inaugural team figure skating event at the Sochi Olympics.

Watched by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the 31-year-old Plushenko took his fourth Olympic medal after gold in 2006 and silver in 2002 and 2010.

But his achievement was almost overshadowed by Lipnitskaia, who sealed the victory at the age of just 15 to euphoria at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

"I'm 31 years and this means everything to me. It's so much history," said Plushenko.

"It's the first medal for Russia this Olympics. I love being first."

He joins Swede Gillis Grafstroem as the only skater to win four figure skating medals — three in gold — between 1920 and 1932.

Lipnitskaia remained solid despite some nerves toward the end of her skate to "Schindler's List" as she struggled to land her final triple jump.

She nevertheless scored a personal best 141.51 points with America's Gracie Gold helping the United States take bronze by finishing second in the women's free skate.

"I was a little bit nervous after Yevgeny because I didn't want to let the team down," said Lipnitskaia, who was not even born when Plushenko won his first world medal in 1998.

"He was very happy for me at the end and congratulated me in the kiss and cry. My main motivation today was not to let the team down."

Russia sealed the gold even before the final round with world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White later earning a standing ovation for their free skate to "Scherherazade" with a new world record score of 113.69.

Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of Canada were second with Russians Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov third.

Putin later joined the skaters rinkside wearing the team colors.

"He said 'Well done, but don't relax, you still have the individual events to come,'" said ice dancer Ekaterina Bobrova, who competed in the short dance on Saturday.

But it is uncertain whether Plushenko will continue in the men's individual events on Feb. 13 and 14 as he complained of a pain in his back after his performance.

"First I have to rest and talk to the doctors, perhaps implant some more stuff into my back," said Plushenko, who had surgery on his back last year.

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