LONDON – With Rafael Nadal, Chris Bosh and Carolina Kluft injured and David Beckham and Ian Thorpe past their best, the Olympics have been hit by a raft of pull-outs.
“It is one of the saddest days of my career,” said Nadal, who was the gold medalist in tennis singles at Beijing, after announcing his withdrawal from the Games.
The Spanish world No. 3, the winner of 50 career titles, including 11 Grand Slam titles, needs to rest his chronically suspect knees ahead of the US Open in New York next month.
His decision meant that he also had to surrender the honor of carrying the Spanish flag at Friday’s opening ceremony, a duty now to be assumed by basketball star Pau Gasol.
The United States basketball team will remain heavy favorites for gold despite losing Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Chauncey Billups.
Track and field has also lost Croatia’s double world high jump champion Blanka Vlasic who underwent an Achilles tendon operation in January.
Defending triple jump champion Nelson Evora of Portugal is also absent as is great French hope Teddy Thamgho, the world indoor champion in the discipline.
Sweden’s three-time world heptathlon champion Carolina Kluft pulled out of the Olympics Sunday after suffering a thigh injury.
Kluft, 29, had been hoping to take part in the long jump but having picked up the injury at a small regional meeting in Kuortane, Finland, she made her decision to skip the Games.
“I don’t want to go to London with this kind of preparations,” she said.
Kluft was Olympic heptathlon champion at the 2004 Athens Games and took the world title in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Other high-profile absentees from the Games include cyclists Samuel Sanchez of Spain, the defending champion, and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.
In the pool, Australian star Thorpe, a five-time Olympic champion, failed to qualify for London after coming out of retirement.
Former England football captain Beckham, 37, wasn’t selected for the Great Britain team, despite having played a high-profile role in London winning the hosting rights.
However, the most sorely-missed athlete will be Norwegian swimmer Dale Oen.
The 100m breaststroke champion died of a heart attack while at a training camp in Arizona in April. — AFP