Evgeni Plushenko Faces Backlash From Russia After Dramatic Sochi Dropout
Turns out, male figure skaters can be catty. On Thursday, Russia's lone competitor in the men's ice-skating event, Evgeni Plushenko, dramatically dropped out with seconds to go before his performance. Less than two hours later, Plushenko announced his retirement from figure skating — and Russia isn't happy. See, not only had Plushenko been controversially picked to represent Russia over an 18-year-old fellow skater, but the former champion's sudden retirement meant Russia missed its shot at gold at the event. (And silver. And bronze.)
And then there's everybody who thinks Plushenko should have demonstrated some of that famous Russian stoicism and just pushed through to compete anyway. Plushenko's longtime rival and fellow Olympic medallist, Russian skater Alexei Yagudin, told NBC: "I think [Plushenko] will understand my words... We always competed through the pain."
Later, Ivor Lebedev, a member of the Russian parliament, Tweeted: "Perform through the pain for the honor of the country."
Moments after his name was called during Thursday's event, Plushenko skated over to the judges and told them he was dropping out. He'd been experiencing spinal pain during warm-ups, he said, and he'd undergone 12 operations on his knees and back.
But the 31-year-old skater had already been beaten by a Russian opponent, Maxim Kovtun, in the Russian nationals. Kovtun is 18, and his advocates believed he should be picked to represent Russia in the Olympics — but because of Plushenko's long and storied skating career, regardless of his injuries, Plushenko was chosen.
On Friday, another Russian regional athlete, Ruslan Nugmatullin, wrote on Twitter: "You should go when it's time. Kovtun earned the right to participate in Sochi2014."
All of this drama could have been avoided if Plushenko had pulled out of the competition before Monday, which was the deadline for Russia to switch competitors.
And as for Plushenko? "I feel sorry for my fans, and I feel sorry for everybody," he told NBC. "I almost cried. It’s hard, believe me. This is not how I wanted to end my career. I am very disappointed. But I tried to do my best.”
Meanwhile, Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu made figure-skating history in the men's event Thursday night: Hanye became the first-ever skater to break the 100-point mark at the Olympics. The 19-year-old also took gold at the team skating event earlier this week. "I was so surprised with my score!" he told NBC.
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