Injured skater Plushenko retires from Games, overshadows men's hockey

Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:05pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's flamboyant figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko pulled out of the Winter Olympics through injury on Thursday in a shock twist that immediately deflated home fans pumped up by an opening victory for their beloved men's ice hockey team.

At the Iceberg Skating Palace, there was disbelief when the announcement came over the public address system that the 31-year-old would not compete in the men's individual figure skating event after he injured himself during his warm-up.

The news came just seconds before Plushenko was due to start his short program, and left a stunned audience wondering if they had witnessed the end of a glittering career.

Plushenko, a controversial selection for the Games because of the lack of competitive action in the build-up, won his fourth Olympic medal on Sunday when he helped Russia triumph in the inaugural team competition.

But during his warmup he repeatedly clutched his back.

"I came out for the warm-up... and in the first triple Axel I stepped out and felt like I had a knife in my back," he told reporters.

"And the second triple Axel, it was a horrible one. It was a hard landing and after this I didn't feel my right leg. I took four painkillers and it didn't help. I think it was God saying, 'Yevgeny, enough is enough'."

A few hundred meters away at the futuristic Bolshoy Ice Dome, the mood could not have been more different.   Continued...

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets Yevgeny Plushenko, a member of the gold medal-winning Russian figure skating team, during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 9, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson