Plushenko leaves stage

India's Iqbal finishes a disappointing 85th

Plushenko leaves stage

Russian organisers are proud of a "truly great" Winter Olympics so far, although the sudden retirement of figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko left home crowds with no-one to cheer in the climax of the men's individual event later on Friday.

The host nation's two gold medals of the Sochi Olympics have come in figure skating, and the sight and sound of a packed Iceberg Skating Palace roaring on local athletes has been one of the enduring images of the Games so far.

Plushenko may not have won anyway – Japanese teenager Yuzuru Hanyu notched up a world record in the short programme – but his presence would have provided a dramatic close to the seventh day of full competition on the Black Sea coast.

"We are modestly proud and satisfied with the achievements so far," Sochi Olympics chief Dmitry Chernyshenko told Reuters, after the International Olympic Committee praised organisers for what they said were "excellent" Games.

"But we are not relaxing," he added, as Russia's first Winter Olympics neared the halfway point. "There are still many things to do until the end of the Games and the most exciting competitions are ahead."

Such words will be music to the ears of President Vladimir Putin, who is pinning his reputation on a successful Olympics. The main downside for Russia has been the lack of medals, as the team lingers in seventh place in the table.

Now Plushenko is gone, home hopes of sporting success look limited on a day when six medal events will be decided. When Plushenko pulled out late on Thursday with a typically theatrical flourish, with him went the chance of a Russian medal, and once again invited questions over whether the 31-year-old should have been included in the Games at all.

Many believe that honour should have gone to 18-year-old Maxim Kovtun, who beat Plushenko in the Russian nationals, but his older rival controversially secured his Olympic ticket following a secret skate test. Svetlana Zhurova, herself a former Olympic speed skating champion, defended Plushenko, who was part of the team who won gold on Sunday, and urged Kovtun to take it on the chin. "I believe that if Maxim Kovtun is a true sportsman, he will now redouble his efforts to train and take his chance," she wrote on Twitter.

Shoddy show

India’s cross country skier Nadeem Iqbal had a disappointing outing as he finished 85th in the men’s 15km classic run event on Friday.

The 30-year-old Iqbal, in his first Winter Olympics, clocked 55:12.5 seconds to cover the 15km distance and secure a lowly 85th position out of 87 athletes who finished the race at the Laura Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Center. Iqbal was 16 minutes and 42.8 seconds slower than Switzerland’s Dario Cologna, the gold medal winner.  Swedish skiers Johan Olsson (38.58.2) and Daniel Richardson (39:08.5) won the silver and bronze.

lpine skier Himanchu Thakur is the only Indian left in the fray and his Giant Slalom event is scheduled to begin on February 19.

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