Last season, Lutai placed seventh at Europeans and 10th at Worlds, overtaking two-time National Champion Sergei Voronov at both events. Besides Voronov, Artem Borodulin, Alexander and Vladimir Uspenski, up-and-coming Ivan Bariev and others are in the hunt for a spot on the team.
Evgeni Plushenko's return to competitive skating only adds to the excitement, and Lutai knows exactly what to expect from the Olympic Champion since he is training with him once again in the same group under Alexei Mishin's tutelage.
"Well, I'm forcing myself to work even harder!" Lutai laughed when talking about the impact of Plushenko's comeback. "It is actually a good motivation for me. I'm watching Zhenia (Plushenko) and I watch how much he is working and I'm comparing myself. He is the [current] Olympic Champion. I'm looking at him, even when we go to play soccer. I'm just striving to work harder, to do even more in order to become the best. I just have to prove that I'm not worse, that I'm not the number two. I'm still striving to be the number one. The aspiration is there and this is helping me in my work. I'm not upset at all about his return.”