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Maggie Hendricks

Team Plushenko whining again; this time, it's skating order

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First it was that the judges are biased to North Americans. Then it was news that he'd protested his inclusion on a judging instructional tape. It seems the only time we hear something about 2006 Olympic figure skating champion Evgeni Plushenko or his camp, it's whining.

Now it's about the start order for Tuesday's short program. Plushenko will skate 10th.

The start order is decided by the skater's results in major international competitions. (Plushenko recently came out of retirement, so he has few finishes to judge from and therefore has a relatively early start time.) This is a change from 2006, and his coach is not pleased.

"I am upset this is not a blind draw, like it was in Turin four years ago,'' Alexei Mishin, Plushenko's coach, said Sunday. "The instinct for the judges is the late groups are better skaters."

While Mishin and Plushenko were away from the sport, they must have missed how the scoring has changed. See, now the judges just reward what they see. They aren't trying to rank skaters, so there is no need to "hold" spots for better skaters who may come later, as was the custom when skating was still using the 6.0 system.

If Mishin and Plushenko want proof that the start order means nothing, they should look to Sunday night's pairs short program. The Chinese pair of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao were the very first skaters to take to the ice, and they broke the scoring record.

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