SOCHI, Russia -- Evgeni Plushenko's time at the Sochi Olympics came to an early end.
The Russian was in obvious pain after landing awkwardly on a triple axel during warm-ups Thursday night. Coach Alexei Mishin said Plushenko had hurt his oft-injured back during practice Wednesday, and simply could not skate.
"He was not able to do anything, not according to fair play," Mishin said.
When his name was called, Plushenko came onto the ice slowly, his hands on the small of his balky back. He waved to the home crowd and then skated slowly to the referee.
After his withdrawal was announced, he waved again to the crowd and put his hands on his heart.
"This is not tragedy what happened with Evgeni," Mishin said. "I was with him 20 years. Mostly we have good success. Mostly he was a winner."
Though the timing of it was unexpected, Plushenko's withdrawal was not.
The 31-year-old has a long history of back trouble – he still has four screws in his back from a surgery in early 2013 – and he said he felt twinges of pain on his final two jumps during the team competition. With a second Olympic gold, and little hope of contending in the individual event where the field is one of the deepest in recent memory, many thought Plushenko would drop out. He had turned back time in the team competition, showing all of the charisma and presence that made him a star, and there was no need to jeopardize that in the men's event.
But Plushenko said he would skate, wanting to put on one last show for his adoring fans.
Instead, he took one last curtain call.
Plushenko was greeted by tooting horns, waving flags and cheers of "Zhen-ya! Zhen-ya!" when he came out for warm-ups, and again when he took the ice for his program. But when he came out to skate, it was clear he was in pain and there would be no encore of his emotional performances in the team competition.
The Iceberg Palace went silent as a somber Plushenko skated to the boards to talk to the referee. And though he tried to smile as acknowledged the crowd, his legs appeared to almost buckle beneath him when he left the ice and coach Alexei Mishin had to grab him to support him.
Plushenko leaves with four medals in four Olympics, tying him with Sweden's Gillis Grafstrom as the most decorated Olympic figure skaters.
Though Plushenko has a huge following, his withdrawal is sure to raise some eyebrows. Russia had only one men's spot in Sochi, and Plushenko finished second to Maxim Kovtun at the national championships. But Russian officials opted to send Plushenko over the teenager, who has been inconsistent at major events.
Plushenko could have withdrawn after the team competition and been replaced by Kovtun or another skater, but he opted not to.
I will miss you, sex bomb.