Injured Plushenko withdraws from men's event

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia has crashed out of the men's singles figure skating competition....

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia has crashed out of the men's singles figure skating competition. (REUTERS)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:37 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - Evgeni Plushenko, a huge fan favourite at the Sochi Olympics, abruptly withdrew from the men's singles figure skating competition on Thursday night.

Showing his dramatic flair right to the end, Plushenko skated on to the ice for the start of his short program, then went over to talk to the referee before waving to the crowd and skating off. At which point it was announced that was withdrawing due to health reasons.

"(Wednesday) I fell on the quad toe in training and I felt a problem in my back. Today I went into training to see what I could do but I couldn't jump," said Plushenko. "I skated maybe seven minutes, maximum. I tried and tried and tried today. In the warm-up I did the triple loop and triple lutz, but after the first triple axel I stepped out and felt terrible pain in my leg and the second one was just a terrible landing. I couldn't feel my legs after it.

"It hurt and that was it, I had to withdraw," he added. "I am sorry for my fans and for everybody, but I tried until the end. I almost cried. It's hard, believe me. This is not how I wanted to end my career. I am very disappointed. But I tried to do my best."

Before taking the ice for the short, he stood at the boards talking to his coach Alexei Mishin for some time before skating over to the judges' panel.

Plushenko, 31, suffered a back injury in January of 2013, which forced him to withdraw from the European championships in Zagreb. Croatia. He underwent surgery on his spinal cord and recovered for the start of this season. He looked to be in form to win a medal in the men's singles competition here in at the Sochi Olympics, which wraps up Friday night with the long program.

"What I kindly ask you my friends ... this is not tragedy, what happened with Evgeni," said Mishin. "Because I was working with him for 20 years, during that time mostly we have a good successes. Mostly he was a winner. If during 20 years he was a successful, don't push him too much, don't criticize too much. Try to tell about him more positive than negative."

Plushenko won singles gold at the 2006 Turin Games and the silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games, and needed one more medal to pass Gilles Grafstrom's record of four figure skating medals. He led Russia to the gold in the team competition last weekend and has been a huge story at these Games given his age (31), recent injury history and the fact that he only finished second at his own national championships this year and was selected to compete at the Sochi Games over the winner, 18-year-old Maxim Kovtun.

"I need a big rest now, and to have some treatment," said Plushenko, when asked about his future. "Then I need to start my rehabilitation. I have already had four pills today."

"Of course I will keep skating. I will skate in many shows, but for now I need a very big rest," he added.

-- Steve Buffery


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