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Peers: remember Plushenko's achievements

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2014 at 7:26 am •  Published: February 14, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Realizing it was over for him, Evgeni Plushenko held his hands out, as if asking the crowd to forgive him.

No apologies necessary.

Plushenko's career ended in pain Thursday night when he withdrew from the men's short program at the Sochi Olympics, then retired. Many of his peers say he should be remembered for his achievements, even if things ended on a sour note because his withdrawal left Russia without a skater in the event.

"His longevity was unbelievable, on a par with the greats of so many sports, not just figure skating," said Evan Lysacek, who beat Plushenko for the gold medal four years ago in Vancouver. "He was intense and always a tough competitor. I was so impressed that he stuck by this comeback and the way he handled the team competition and was able to win a gold medal.

"I don't think he's pleased this is the way for his career to end, but the pain was just too much."

Plushenko has been a force on the world scene since the turn of the century. His resume includes a collection of medals in four Olympics — gold in 2006 and 2014, silver in 2002 and 2010 — the only modern era figure skater to do so. He won three world titles and seven European championships.

He did it with the combination of skill and showmanship that is a hallmark of Olympic greats such as Usain Bolt and Alberto Tomba.

And Plushenko was the skater to beat for a decade, rivaling only Michelle Kwan in the women's field in recent years.

After the Vancouver Games, Plushenko said his "dream" was to skate for Russia in the Sochi Olympics. He did so, helping it to the first team gold medal. When his back gave out and he forlornly skated away, some of his countrymen criticized him. They said he should have dropped out after the team competition so that a younger Russian could replace him.

Nonsense, says 1988 Olympic champ Brian Boitano.

"As time goes by, people will only remember his great performances and how he represented his country and loved his country," Boitano said. 'People will revere him for skating with all the physical limitations he overcame in order to compete.

"Ultimately, they cannot criticize him because he did not put himself on the team. His country sent him. He was making one last push to skate in an Olympic event. It's what athletes do, but there is a breaking point."

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