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Ailing knee forces Olympic champ Plushenko off ice

All those quadruple jumps are taking a toll on Evgeni Plushenko's knees.

The Olympic champion is off the ice for several days to rest his aching left knee, which has taken a pounding from all the quads he is practicing, agent Ari Zakarian said Saturday. Plushenko still hopes to compete at the Russian national championships Dec. 24-28.

"It's not broken or something that's critical or something that forbids him even to walk. It needs time," Zakarian said. "He's going through a hard time, but for him, he has set up this Olympic goal in his head."

Knee problems hastened Plushenko's retirement after his dominant performance at the Turin Olympics. He had not skated competitively until the Rostelecom Cup in October, when he appeared to be back to his old, dominant self with a runaway victory.

But Zakarian said Plushenko heard whispers that his spins and footwork weren't what they once were, and decided to answer his critics by pushing the technical limits of the sport. He has been practicing quad-quad and triple axel-quad combinations, Zakarian said.

No one has done either of those combinations in competition. They're so difficult, in fact, few people even practice them.

"He wants to be above the other skaters, to be technically a lot better than the other skaters. He believes his skating is not appreciated as much any more," Zakarian said. "He wants to do things that nobody has ever done — and probably won't do for the next 40 years."

Plushenko's knees — the left one, in particular — began hurting about a week ago, and he's been off the ice completely the last three days. He will probably need a few more days of rest, Zakarian said.

But if the knee responds to rest and treatment, Zakarian said he thinks Plushenko could still skate at Russian nationals.

"Even if he trains one week I think he'll be fine because his condition right now is amazing," Zakarian said. "The condition he was in at the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, he was not even nearly close to the condition he's in right now."

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