Evgeni Plushenko out of Europeans

ZAGREB, Croatia -- Russian star Evgeni Plushenko fell in the short program Thursday and dropped out of the European figure skating championships with a back problem as Florent Amodio of France took the lead in the men's competition.

Plushenko fell while trying to execute a triple axel and placed sixth before deciding to drop out of Saturday's free skate.

Plushenko aggravated a chronic back condition, according to the organizers.

"You can't fight with opponents and with pain," his coach Alexei Mishin said.

The 2006 Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion, who also has seven European titles, has been plagued by a herniated disc for months. He had surgery last year and special thermal treatment in Munich in November. Plushenko has also suffered knee problems.

"I need competitions, the nationals are not enough," Plushenko said.

Plushenko's fitness is an issue before the world championships in March in Canada. The worlds also serve as a qualifier for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, in Plushenko's native Russia.

Plushenko was also shaky in a triple Lutz and had no quadruple jumps.

Amodio took the lead with 89.92 points, ahead of Javier Fernandez of Spain with 88.80. Both performed quadruple salchows. Brian Joubert of France was third with 83.93.