Friday, February 14, 2014

By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, February 14, 2014

Evgeni Plushenko shocks Sochi, retires before short program
Is Evgeni Plushenko done?

If so, the majestic Russian figure skater exited the spotlight with Evgenian stagecraft: Gold and gone.

The veteran show-master had just come out under the klieg lights at the Ice Palace to perform his short program in the men’s singles competition. He looked clearly out of sorts, rolling his shoulders, wincing, kneading the small of his chronically ailing back.

He motioned to the judges for a moment’s indulgence. Most spectators thought perhaps there was something awry with Plushenko’s music. But he stopped again, hands on hips, shaking his signature block tresses.

Couldn’t go through with it, in too much pain, apparently, and waved goodbye instead to the suddenly hushed crowd.

The 31-year-old had fallen on a quad during practice Wednesday, after leading Russia to gold in the inaugural team event on the weekend. He landed awkwardly again — looked more like a strain in the groin muscles — on a triple Axel in the warm-up Thursday night.

Left the ice, spoke to his coach and departed, stomping down the tunnel into the medical room.

“Do not judge him by tonight,” pleaded long-time coach Alexei Mishin, facing down reporters in the mixed zone. “Judge him by his history. Be kind.”

Plushenko, Olympic champion in 2006 and twice silver, including four years ago in Vancouver, has had a dozen surgeries on his problematic back. Injury caused him to miss all of the 2013 Grand Prix season, though he competed at nationals and came second.
The fall in practice, said Mishin, had opened up a three-inch gash, just above one of the operation scars on his back, where he now has plastic rather than bone.

“Yesterday I fell on the quad toe in training and I felt a problem in my back,” Plushenko explained when he reappeared to address journalists. “Today I went into training to see what I could do but I couldn’t jump. I skated maybe seven minutes maximum. I tried and tried and tried today.” (Source: Toronto Star)