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October 24, 2014

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Russia’s Plushenko withdraws from Olympic figure skating

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Ivan Sekretarev / AP

Evgeni Plushenko of Russia leaves the ice after pulling out of the men’s short program figure skating competition due to illness at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

Sochi Olympics: Feb. 13, 2014

In this image made with a multiple exposure, Finland's Antti Ollila competes in the men's ski slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Launch slideshow »

SOCHI, Russia — Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the men's figure skating competition at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday for medical reasons.

The four-time medalist said he actually was injured in practice the previous day.

The 31-year-old Plushenko, who helped Russia win the team gold over the weekend, fell on a triple axel during warmups for the short program Thursday and immediately grabbed his back. He skated toward his coaches while bent over, then tried to loosen up by skating around the Iceberg rink some more.

He then attempted another axel and botched it, shook his head and consulted with coach Alexei Mishin. When Plushenko's name was announced to the crowd seconds later — to loud applause — he skated to the event referee and withdrew.

Before leaving the ice, he held up both hands to the crowd as if to say he was sorry, and took a small bow.

He was Russia's only man in the competition, so the host country will have no finisher in the event.

Plushenko is the first figure skater in the modern era to win medals in four Olympics: gold in 2006 and 2014, silver in 2002 and 2010. He has been plagued by back and knee injuries in recent years, and says he has had 12 surgeries.

Plushenko finished second at the Russian national championships and didn't appear headed for Sochi at all. He was added to the Russian roster late last month after a trial run-through in front of federation officials convinced them he was the country's best men's option.

That decision paid off when he finished second in the team short program and first in the free skate, helping Russia to its first gold of the Sochi Games.

In that final full practice Wednesday, he fell three times, but was laughing and joking with Mishin after two of the flops. Mishin even said Plushenko was "ready" for the men's event.

That changed Thursday, and when Plushenko limped out of the arena, the cheers turned to mild applause from the stunned audience.

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