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Russian Star Plushenko Withdraws From Men's Skating

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia withdrew from the Sochi Olympics on Thursday, reportedly because of a recurring problem with his back.
Ivan Sekretarev

Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, a star who hoped to compete one more time before his adoring home nation fans, pulled himself from the games on Thursday.

There's word that he may be headed into retirement because of a recurring back problem.

USA Today describes what happened at Sochi's Iceberg Palace:

"The 2006 Olympic champion withdrew from the men's event just before he was to skate Thursday night, citing medical reasons.

"The Russian landed awkwardly on a triple axel in warm-ups and looked clearly uncomfortable. The first skater in the group, he came onto the ice slowly, his hands on his balky back. He waved to the home crowd and then skated to the referee. ... The Iceberg Palace went silent as a somber Plushenko skated to the boards to talk to the referee. ...

"After his withdrawal was announced, he waved again to the crowd and put his hands on his heart."

Plushenko withdrew "four days after helping Russia to gold in figure skating's team competition," The Washington Post notes. This was his fourth Olympics and he was seeking a fifth medal. Along with his individual gold in 2006 and the team gold this week, Plushenko won silver medals in 2002 and 2010.

According to Russia's RT.com, Plushenko "says he will retire from the sport." It adds that he told his coach, Aleksey Mishin, that "something clicked in my back" after he fell during the warm-up.

USA Today points out that Plushenko "has a long history of back trouble — he still has four screws in his back from a surgery in early 2013."

His withdrawal means Russia now doesn't have a competitor in men's figure skating. As The New York Times writes:

"Maxim Kovtun, 18, defeated Plushenko to win the Russian national championship, but skating officials chose Plushenko for the lone spot in the Sochi Games because of his experience and charisma. Kovtun, who struggled to fifth place at the European championships, was not considered a medal candidate here."

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