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Evgeni Plushenko out of the men’s figure-skating event for medical reasons

It's darn difficult to pull off a quad-triple combination at the best of times. With a barking back, it's impossible. …

Russian skating icon Evgeni Plushenko came out for the warmup in the third flight of skaters for the men's short program.

He revved up for his triple axel, bailed out of it in mid-air, landed and grabbed his back.

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After a brief word with the event referee, he apologetically raised both hands to the crowd that had given him a huge ovation as he took the ice, and walked off.

For the 31-year-old who has had 12 surgeries, including recent back surgery, the Olympic comeback was over before it began. And the air went out of the figure-skating venue like a pricked balloon.

It's likely he already knew he wouldn't be able to go, but suited up to at least salute the crowd and hope for a miracle.

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Plushenko had been erratic in his presence at practices this week, undergoing a whole lot of treatment on his back.

In practice Wednesday, he reportedly fell twice – hard. Whether he would have even been able to muddle through a program was sort of beside the point. It seemed fairly obvious he wouldn't be able to skate at a high-enough level to even be a factor.

It's a break for Canadian Patrick Chan and his two Japanese rivals, who are to skate later on in a field of 30 skaters.

But it's a huge disappointment for Plushenko and the Russian people. He was the only one who had any shot at a medal.

But there will always be his efforts in the team event – and that quadruple-triple combination he showed off in the short program.

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