It wasn’t the end the partial home crowd wanted, but in the end, time and injury seem to have finally caught up to Evgeni Plushenko.
At 31 years old, the Russian figure skating legend is a rock star in his home country. It was probably that fact alone that earned Plushenko a spot on the team in Sochi in the first place. After finishing in second place in the Russian nationals, the now four-time Winter Olympic medalist seemed rejuvenated when he won the men’s portion of the team event last week. Russia won the gold over Canada and the United States.
While certainly there were questions about whether or not Plushenko would go on to compete in the individual contest, there was never any indication that his health would keep him from at least participating. That all changed with one tough fall.
“Today in the morning, I can’t jump … but I said to myself, ‘Evgeni, you must skate. You must. You need two more days, the short and the long program,”’ Plushenko told the global media after his withdrawal. “And I came on the warm-up and … I felt it, like knife in the back.
“I think it’s God saying, ‘Evgeni, enough. Enough to skate. You did a lot of figure skating,’” Plushenko added.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of figure skating, certainly this brings to light some of the physical tolls these athletes put themselves through. Plushenko has had 12 surgeries, and still has screws in his back from an injury suffered last year. That he was even able to reach Sochi was an accomplishment in itself. Knowing that this would be his last chance to compete on the world level, it took one more injury to finally understand it was over.
Even though Russia will not be represented in the men’s competition, it’s a fitting end that the most decorated skater in Olympic history was able to go out one last time in front of his home crowd.