In a surprise move, Russian figure skating star and three-time Olympic medalist Evgeni Plushenko pulled out of the men's individual competition at the Sochi Olympics just before he was supposed to skate his short program last week, due to an injury, then quickly announced his retirement from the sport. But Plushenko, 31 and a four-time Olympian, had earlier helped Russia earn a team gold medal. Interviewed by CNN yesterday, Plushenko said Russian skating federation officials forced him to skate despite his injury—but later he backtracked on that claim.
Asked if he was forced to skate, Plushenko initially replied, "That's right." He later added, "I explained to my federation, that maybe somebody else is going to skate. I asked them. They said ... well, what happened, happened." But later, he said his comments had been misinterpreted: "I want to make clear that the federation put no pressure on me," he said in a statement on the federation's website. "I don't speak English fluently so my answers could have been incorrectly interpreted. I also could not always understand the sense and nuance of the questions." Last week, the New York Times noted that Plushenko's exit had sparked a backlash in Russia, with some wondering whether he should have been sent to the Games in the first place.