Plushenko retires after injury at Sochi Olympics 

click to enlarge IVAN SEKRETAREV/AP
  • Ivan Sekretarev/ap
Russian Evgeni Plushenko, the first figure skater in the modern era to win medals in four Olympics, retired from competitive figure skating shortly after withdrawing from the men’s competition for medical reasons. The Russian said he injured himself during practice on Wednesday, then fell on a triple axel during warmups Thursday. In the short program, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan led with a score of 101.45. Hanyu owns a 4-point lead over Patrick Chan of Canada.

“I was so surprised with my score,” Hanyu said. “I didn’t know I got over 100.”

He shouldn’t have been, considering the speed, sharpness, entertainment value and total conviction of his skating. He nailed his two biggest jumps, including a huge a quadruple toe loop to open the program, and his triple lutz-triple toe combination was exquisite.

And then the fun began.

He charmed the judges with his facial expressions, staring directly at them with an inviting smile during his intricate steps and turns to “Parisian Walkaways.”

“For Yuzuru, that was perfection,” said his coach, Brian Orser. “That’s as good as it gets.”

Hanyu, 19, also won the men’s short program in the team event and is on quite a run with wins in the Grand Prix Final, Japanese championships and his Sochi achievements.

“I always had pressure. I think I can have confidence after those competitions,” he said.

Plushenko finished his stellar career with another injury.

No man from an Asian nation or Canada has even won Olympic gold in figure skating. Chan, who was fifth in Vancouver, put on his best Olympic routine to stay within sight of Hanyu.

“Four points in singles men’s is not much,” Chan said. “I like being in second. I like being in the chase. It’s exciting to me.”

Javier Fernandez of Spain, a country that’s never won an Olympic figure skating medal, was third with 86.98.

Hanyu and Fernandez are coached by Orser, who guided South Korea’s Yuna Kim to women’s gold in Vancouver. Because they skated consecutively, Orser had to scramble to change from a gray blazer to a Spain team jacket, but first he sprinted over to congratulate his Japanese student.

American Jason Brown put on the performance his young skating career to finish sixth. He’s within the width of a skate blade of third heading into Friday’s free skate.

“All year in this program, in every competition I have gone to, I have gotten a personal best,” the 19-year-old Brown said. “I didn’t want to stop in the Olympics.”

Brown will be the final skater Friday night. Fernandez leads off the last group of six, with Takahashi second, Hanyu third and Chan fourth. Peter Liebers of Germany is the other skater in the final group.

The night began with wild swings, from Plushenko falling in warmups to U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott crashing. Abbott stayed down for a lengthy period after his fall, and just when coach Yuka Sato was about to open the entry door to help him, he struggled to his feet and continued his program.

The four-time U.S. champ nailed every subsequent element to wind up 15th.

“I’m not in the least bit ashamed,” Abbott said. “I stood up and I finished that program and I’m proud of my effort and I’m proud of what I did under the circumstance.”

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