Figure Skating

Gustavo Garcia - Thursday Feb. 13, 2014 22:46 ET

Evgeni Plushenko stuns Sochi with retirement: Newsmaker of Day 6

Russian figure skater withdraws from men’s singles competition with injury

Evgeny Plushenko salutes the crowd as he withdraws from the competiton
Evgeny Plushenko salutes the crowd as he withdraws from the competiton prior to his short program at the Sochi Winter Olympics Thursday, February 13, 2014 in Sochi. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)
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The crowd at Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi was prepared to be shocked by a figure skating legend on Thursday. It was Evgeni Plushenko’s turn in the men’s short program and all eyes were on the hometown favourite.

After all, he’s been dazzling figure skating fans around the world for years with breathtaking performances on the ice. So another great showing was expected.

And then he delivered the stunner … without even skating – becoming our Newsmaker of Day 6.

Plushenko, the only modern-era figure skater with medals in four different Olympics, skated toward the referee and withdrew from the event.

He then continued to shock the world of figure skating, announcing his retirement from the sport. It was a move not even the experts saw coming, since the veteran led Russia to its first gold medal of the Games three days ago in the team event.

The 31-year-old cited his health as the main reason for his retirement. He suffered a back injury on Wednesday during practice.

“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 said. “And then after a second triple Axel I didn't feel my right leg, it finished me off."

A bittersweet departure

Plushenko got to say goodbye at home, but leaves Russia without a participant in a discipline they have loved for years.

I think it's God saying, "Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,” he said. “Age, it's OK ... but I have 12 surgeries. I'd like to be healthy.”

It was over. The legendary figure skater, who won gold in Torino 2006 and silver in Salt Lake City 2002 and Vancouver 2010 skated to the centre of the rink for the last time to soak in crowd’s ovation and emotional farewell.

And no, despite the dramatic atmosphere that always accompanies figure skating, he made it clear that he didn’t plan to go out this way.

"Some people say we had this plan from the very beginning, but we did not," he said. "We were going to go to the end. If I really wished to withdraw after the team event, I would have."

(With files from Reuters & The Associated Press)

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