Plushenko, 31, and a four-time Olympic medalist, was one of the event's top prospects entering the much-anticipated men's competition Thursday, when he made the decision to drop out right before he was to begin his skate, USA Today reports.
Plushenko, who had back surgery in 2013, stepped onto the ice to cheers from his adoring home crowd in the Iceberg Skating Palace, but clearly looked in pain during his warm-up. When he re-entered the ice for his competition performance, he appeared to skate slowly with his hands on his back, then quickly summoned a referee.
He put his hands to his heart when the announcer shared the news that he was withdrawing from his event. The crowd went silent in shock and Plushenko attempted to smile, his legs turning weak as his coach Alexei Mishin stepped in to escort him off the ice, the paper reported.
Shortly after his withdraw, Plushenko announced his retirement from the sport, according to a Tweet from the Associated Press.
Plushenko over the years has dominated the ice, making him a star of the sport – dashing, artistic and powerful, and landing multiple quad jumps in competition. He earned a gold medal in 2006, and two silvers in 2002 and 2010 along with the team gold medal in Sochi this year.
BREAKING: Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko has retired after withdrawing from the Sochi Olympics .— The Associated Press (@AP) February 13, 2014