SOCHI, February 15 (R-Sport) - Russian figure skater Evgeny Plushenko will not make an appearance at the Sochi Olympic gala exhibition, his manager told R-Sport on Sunday.
Plushenko won his second career Olympic gold medal with Russia in the inaugurual team event last week, but then dramatically withdrew from the individual competition with a back injury on Thursday, just minutes before he was due to skate.
It left Plushenko's fans wondering if they would get one final goodbye at the Olympic gala, a traditional skating exhibition that rounds off most competitions on the circuit, scheduled for February 22 at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
"Evgeny Plushenko will definitely not perform at the exhibition at the Olympics," Ari Zakaryan told R-Sport. "How can he perform if his condition doesn't allow it?"
Plushenko's last-minute pullout has caused a firestorm of controversy in his home nation. Concerns were high before the Games that his fitness - in doubt due to 12 operations on his back and knee in the last few years - wouldn't allow him to skate four programs in eight days. Many were lobbying for 18-year-old Maxim Kovtun to go in his place.
Had Plushenko pulled out immediately after the team event last Sunday due to injury, Kovtun could have been called up as a replacement for the individual event. But Plushenko insisted he felt healthy enough to compete, and the deadline expired.