Plushenko wins short programme at Russian champs
Russia's Yevgeny Plushenko performs during the exhibition gala at the 2010 European Figure Skating Championships on January 24, 2010 in Tallinn
The 31-year-old is top of the standings after a commanding performance in the short programme at the championships held at the Iceberg ice palace in Sochi that will host figure skating events at the Games in February with 98.41 points.
Maxim Kovtun was second with 93.08 points and Sergei Voronov third with 89.10 points.
The free skating programme will take place on Wednesday with Plushenko the clear favourite to be crowned Russian champion and boosting his hopes of reclaiming the Olympic gold he won in 2006 in Turin on home soil in February -- he took silver in the 2010 Games.
"Yevgeny has become more precise in fulfilling the elements than in previous years," his long standing trainer Alexei Mishin told the ITAR-TASS news agency.
"He is more mature than he was in the games in Turin and Vancouver," he added.
In summer, the three-time world and seven-time European champion underwent back surgery in a bid to make a comeback in time for the Olympics on home soil.