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Highland Park's Jason Brown, U.S. capture bronze medal in team figure skating

Jason Brown of the United States competes in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Jason Brown of the United States competes in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Jason Brown of the United States competes in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Jason Brown of the United States competes in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Jason Brown of the United States competes in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )
Jason Brown of the United States competes in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Jason Brown of the United States falls as he competes in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )
Jason Brown of the United States waves to spectators as he waits for his results after competing in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, Pool)
Marissa Castelli, left, and Ashley Wagner cheer for Jason Brown of the United States as he compete in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, Pool)
Jason Brown of the United States, left, speaks with Ashley Wagner of the United States after competing in the men's team free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, Pool)

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Highland Park’s Jason Brown finished fourth in the men’s free skate portion of the new team figure skating event to help the United States secure the bronze medal, but on Sunday the story was all about Russia's resurgence.

Evgeni Plushenko, a four-time Olympic medalist, is certain Russia's figure skating future is secure in the skates of Julia Lipnitskaia.

"She is a genius," Plushenko said of the Olympic rookie.

Along with eight teammates, the 31-year-old Plushenko and the 15-year-old Lipnitskaia won the team event and lifted the host nation to its first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics. Together, they put Russia back atop a sport it once dominated.

"My main motivation today," Lipnitskaia said, "was not to let the team down."

That didn't happen as she dazzled in front of her exulting countrymen, including President Vladimir Putin, at the Iceberg at Sochi's Olympic Park. The Russians skated away from Canada and the United States to win the gold before the final free dance even started.

In no discipline did Russia finish worse than third, compiling 75 points to Canada's 65 that won silver and the 60 that gave bronze to the Americans.

It was a rout built on the experience of Plushenko, the consummate entertainer who now has two golds and two silvers — a record for modern-era figure skaters.

It was victory capped by the freshness of Lipnitskaia, who donned a Russia baseball cap when she was done with her sublime tour of the ice, sat with her triumphant teammates and grinned like the school kid she is.

"I was calm," Lipnitskaia said, adding it was her coaches, parents and teammates who were nervous. "I'm happy with my marks, the scores overall, for the team and for all of Russia. I am so pleased all the country could help me."

That includes Putin, who personally congratulated the team after their victory. Also in the Iceberg stands: members of the Russian ice-hockey team, Olympic champion gymnast Alina Kabayeva and two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva.

"We feel joy and honor," said ice dancer Elena Ilinykh of Putin's presence. "It was inspirational."

That some other countries sat out their top skaters or that the Russians did the same in pairs and dance didn't matter. This was never much of a contest.

"This games is the hardest for me," Plushenko said. "All the fans are cheering so hard that you literally cannot do badly because they do everything with you. You get goose bumps."

The Americans' bronze effort was led by world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won both the short and free dance, and helped by national champion Gracie Gold's superb free skate, which the judges scored second behind Lipnitskaia. Gold trained at Twin Rinks in Buffalo Grove, Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills and the Northbrook Sports Center.

"We were looking forward to this event," White said. "We feel like we were out there for each other and with each other."

Davis and White beat their top rivals and training partners, defending champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, in both dance disciplines. Canada didn't win any segment, but built enough points throughout to take silver.

Brown was competing in his first major senior international event.

But those are just details. This was a night for a Russian show that might be celebrated as much as the Bolshoi.

It signals the country's return to the top of a sport it had owned for decades. As the Soviet Union or Russia, the host nation had won 51 Olympic figure skating medals. But there were no golds in Vancouver four years ago, a first since the country was blanked in 1960.

Now, in the first figure skating event of the Sochi Games, Russia stood atop the medals podium.

It's a place the sensational Lipnitskaia could make her own, just as Plushenko has done for more than a decade. Her routine to "Schindler's List" was mesmerizing. With maturity and grace beyond her years, she clearly was never bothered by her surroundings on this golden night for Russia.

"She's dynamite," Gold said while Lipnitskaia was still skating. "She's 15 and completely unfazed."

Lipnitskaia then contorted her body into one of her spins that a human body shouldn't be able to perform.

"She has no spine," Gold added with a chuckle. "But she has iron in her bones."

Give Plushenko plenty of credit, too. He says he's had 12 surgeries. He barely competed after finishing second to American Evan Lysacek in 2010 at the Vancouver Games. And he had to convince his federation he deserved to be in Sochi after finishing second at the national championships.

Mission accomplished, with a golden hue.

Skating to "Best of Plushenko," there were mistakes in his jumps and not much in between them aside from the required footwork. No, it was not his best, but he scored 168.20 points.

"Today he was a good member of the team," said his longtime coach, Alexei Mishin. "He's enough famous and enough great."

AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen, AP writer Nataliya Vasilyeva and freelancer Marie Millikan contributed to this story.

Want more Olympic news? We're following local athletes in Sochi. Check out our Winter Olympics section for the latest.

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