Russia's Yevgeny Plushenko pulled out of the men's individual figure skating event at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday, just seconds before he had been due to start his short programme.
Plushenko was seen clutching the base of his spine throughout his warm-up and when they announced his name as the next performer, instead of taking his position for the start of his routine, he skated up to the judges.
After an exchange with officials, a male voice announced in Russian over the Iceberg Skating Palace's public address system "Yevgeny Plushenko cannot participate due to a trauma (injury)".
The announcement left more than 10,000 fans deflated and ended one of the most talked about careers in figure skating.
"I came out for the warm-up and in the first triple Axel I stepped out and felt like I had a knife in my back. And the second triple Axel, it was horrible one. It was a hard landing and after this I didn't feel my right leg," an exhausted Plushenko told reporters as he rubbed his back.
"I took four pills (painkillers) and it didn't help.
"I think it was God saying, 'Yevgeny enough, is enough."
The 31-year-old's participation in the men's event had been in the balance after he admitted his back started to play up during his free skate in the team competition on Sunday.
Although he managed to finish off that routine, it was a million miles off from what the world had come to expect of the Russian showman.
At the end of that underwhelming performance he said he would need "the doctors to implant some stuff into my back" so that he could recover in time to pull off two final performances in front of his home fans.
Unfortunately for the spectators who had flocked into the arena to cheer on their favourite son, time simply ran out for Plushenko.
"This is not a tragedy what happened with Yevgeny. During the (last) 20 years, he has had good success, mostly as a winner. Don't criticise him too much," his coach Alexei Mishin said.
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