SOCHI, Russia — From wild cheers to stunned silence, the Sochi Olympics said goodbye Thursday to one of figure skating’s all-time greats.
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 Wednesday, then fell on a triple axel during warmups Thursday.
When Plushenko limped out of the arena, the cheering stopped, eventually turning into mild applause.
Plushenko’s announcement came hours after an Olympic worker was injured when he was hit by a bobsled near the finish line at the Sanki Sliding Center. He was taken by helicopter to a local hospital.
In the first final of the day, the U.S. freestyle skiers swept the podium in slopestyle, with Joss Christensen leading the way in his Olympic debut. Germany completed a sweep of the four luge events by winning the team relay; Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, skiing with a fractured foot, won gold in the women’s cross-country 10-kilometer classical race; and Li Jianrou of China won gold in 500-meter short track speedskating after all three of her opponents in the final fell.
FIGURE SKATING: The 31-year-old Plushenko is the only modern-era figure skater to win medals in four different Olympics. He helped Russia win the team gold over the weekend. He also won figure skating gold in 2006 and silver in 2002 and 2010. Plushenko said he said it felt “like a knife in my back” when he fell on a triple axel during Thursday’s warmups. “I think it’s God saying, ‘Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,’” said Plushenko.
SLOPESTYLE SKIING: For only the third time in Winter Games history, a U.S. team swept the podium. Christensen led the way with a dominating performance that featured four near-perfect runs over the rails and jumps at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. The U.S. skiers matched the country’s previous sweeps in men’s figure skating in 1956 and men’s halfpipe snowboarding in 2002.
CROSS-COUNTRY: Kowalczyk led virtually all the way, finishing in 28 minutes, 17.8 seconds and beating silver medalist Charlotte Kalla of Sweden by 18.4 seconds. Therese Johaug of Norway took bronze, 28.3 seconds behind.
SHORT TRACK: Li’s win in the 500 keeps the Olympic title with China. Injured teammate Wang Meng couldn’t defend the title she has won at every Winter Games since 2002.
SPEEDSKATING: In the women’s 1000-meter race, Zhang Hong pulled off a stunning victory to give China its first gold ever in Olympic speedskating. Her time of 1 minute, 14.02 seconds, broke the track record and just missed the Olympic mark set by Chris Witty at the 2002 Games.
BIATHLON: Martin Fourcade of France earned his second gold of the Sochi Games with a victory in the men’s 20-kilometer individual race.
LUGE: Germany scored a golden sweep of all four luge events by winning the inaugural team relay. Felix Loch, Natalie Geisenberger and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished their runs in 2 minutes, 45.649 seconds, beating Russia for the title by 1.030 seconds.
MEN’S HOCKEY: The United States defeated Slovakia 7-1 and Russia topped Slovenia 5-2 in preliminary rounds.