Longtime Russian figure skating star Evgeni Plushenko announced his intention to retire from competitive skating after being forced to withdraw from the men's singles event at the 2014 Winter Olympics due to injury.
Barry Wilner of the Associated Press (via Yahoo News) reports Plushenko, 31, suffered an injury during the practice skate before his turn in the short program. He immediately felt intense pain and decided it was a message to officially call it quits:
"I think it's God saying, 'Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,'" said Plushenko, who originally was hurt in a training session Wednesday. "Age, it's OK. But I have 12 surgeries. I'd like to be healthy."
In warmups before the short program, he fell on a triple axel and said it felt "like a knife in my back." He skated toward his coaches while bent over, then tried to loosen up by skating around the Iceberg rink some more.
Plushenko could never get loose and had to inform the judges of his decision to remove himself from the event. He was the only athlete from the host nation competing in the men's competition. He acknowledged the fans before skating off the ice.
Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun passed along further comments from the Russian legend, who said this certainly wasn't the way he envisioned his decorated career coming to an end:
"This is not how I wanted to end my career." Evgeni Plushenko after withdrawing from men's singles because of a bad back. #Sochi2014— steve buffery (@Beezersun) February 13, 2014
Christine Brennan of USA Today provided a glimpse of the media gathering around Plushenko as he discussed the frustrating turn of events:
Plushenko explains his injury WD in mixed zone. pic.twitter.com/RPAQraPW8w— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 13, 2014
Even though Plushenko's career comes to an end on a low note, there were plenty of high notes along the way. He won two Olympic gold medals, one as a singles competitor in 2006 and then one as part of the Russian team earlier in the current Games, as well as two silvers in singles (2002, 2010).
Will the final withdrawal affect Plushenko's legacy?
He also enjoyed plenty of success at the World Championship and European Championship levels dating all the way back to the late 1990s. He won 10 total gold medals at those two high-profile events. Unfortunately, his body just couldn't hold up to add any further pieces of hardware to that collection.
Moving forward, the Russian figure skating team will miss Plushenko's presence. Not only was he the country's top men's skater, but he was also remarkably consistent throughout most of his career. He was a go-to athlete during the Winter Games every four years.
It will probably take quite some time before Russia is able to find another skater with his combination of durability and longevity in the sport. That's why it's unfortunate that his career came to an end in such a nondescript way.
His comments imply that Plushenko craves the chance for his body to rest after endless competitions and training sessions over the years. Retirement will give him a chance to do exactly that.