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Figure skater Brian Joubert hit by Olympic jinx again

By Pritha Sarkar

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Brian Joubert and Jeremy Abbott were left wondering why it had all gone wrong after the gold medal contenders flopped spectacularly in the Olympic men's short program on Tuesday.

The Winter Games has become a demon that Joubert, the 2007 world champion and three-times European gold medalist, simply cannot conquer.

"It's another disappointment at the Olympic Games. These Games have beaten me," a heart-broken Joubert told reporters. "I just can't do it at the Olympic Games. Every time it goes badly. I don't understand why. I can't explain why."

Just as he did four years ago, he messed up his 2-1/2 minute program just seconds into the routine. On Tuesday he was heavily penalized for missing out on the second part of his opening combination after he landed his quad awkwardly.

From then on, his program completely unraveled as he fell on the triple lutz and could barely look up at the giant screen at the Pacific Coliseum when his score of 68.00 flashed up -- more than 22 points adrift of leader Yevgeny Plushenko.

"It's a mistake I never make. My foot slid when I picked (into the ice). I made a big mistake but I had to continue to the end," said Joubert, who ended up in 18th.

U.S. national champion Abbott knew the pain his French rival was going through as he suffered a similar fate just an hour later.

The 24-year-old singled his triple Axel and doubled his planned triple Lutz. He trailed in 15th with 69.40.

"I'm trying to figure out why. Why today, why now. Really, I'm just heartbroken. I've been training so well and in the past year I haven't skated that badly," said a shattered Abbott.

But he was determined not to let Tuesday's mishap ruin his free skate on Thursday.

"I'm extremely disappointed. I'm going to have to do some soul-searching in the next day. But I'm not going to let all that training go to waste, I haven't trained this hard to give up."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)