Plushenko disappoints home fans in Sochi with late withdrawal

Two-time gold medallist had secured Olympics place in controversial circumstances

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia skates prior to pulling out of the men's short programme figure skating competition on Thursday. Ivan Sekretarev / AP Photo
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Agence France-Presse

SOCHI, Russia // Two-time gold medallist Evgeni Plushenko dramatically withdrew from the Sochi Olympics with a back injury on Thursday just before he was due to compete in the men’s figure-skating short programme.

“Evgeni Plushenko is not taking part in the competition due to injury,” the Iceberg arena announcer told a stunned crowd.

The 31 year old had taken to the ice for the six-minute warm-up before the start of the competition, where he was bidding to become the first man to win five Olympic figure-skating medals after already helping Russia win team gold.

But with 2 minutes, 25 seconds to go, he tried a triple axel and stumbled. The 2006 Olympic champion and two-time silver medallist then skated around the rink holding his back before trying the jump for a second time and again stumbling.

Plushenko went to the referee Mona Jonsson, shaking his head. It was then announced that he was withdrawing from the competition. He bowed and waved to spectators and left the rink to muted applause.

Going through the mixed zone, the three-time world champion said he would not talk until he had seen a doctor, but had told his coach, Alexei Mishin: “I landed and it [the back] went.”

Mishin said: “At the end of the free skating [in the team event], he was feeling unsure. I have worked with him for 20 years. We have had lots of success. This is one incident in 20 years when he was not successful. Please be positive to him and respect him.”

Afterward, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu broke his own record and won the men’s short program.

About two hours after Plushenko withdrew, Hanyu became the first figure skater to ever surpass the 100-point mark with a spectacular routine that earned him 101.45. That gave him nearly a four-point lead over three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada. Two-time European champ Javier Fernandez of Spain was third.

No Asian, Canadian or Spanish man has ever won Olympic figure skating gold. The top 24 skaters in the short program advanced to Friday’s free skate.

American Jason Brown was sixth. U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott had a hard fall and is in 15th.