Melbourne: In yet another setback to the controversy-ridden Commonwealth Games, Australia’s triple Olympic gold medallist swimmer Stephanie Rice has pulled out of October 3-14 megaevent in Delhi due to a shoulder injury.
The 22-year-old swimmer, who is struggling with a problem in her right shoulder since March, also has been ruled out of the ongoing Pan Pacific Championships in California.
Rice decided to skip the Delhi Games to undergo a surgery in her shoulder in the hope of getting her full fitness before the 2012 London Olympics.
She had earlier put off the surgery till the Commonwealth Games but decided to fix her inflamed joint immediately after consulting her coach Michael Bohl.
“It’s very disappointing, the Melbourne Commonwealth Games was a fantastic event to be part of, and for me personally, and I was really looking forward to the colour and excitement of Delhi,” an emotional Rice was quoted as saying in the Swimming Australia website.
“To not be able to compete at 100 per cent here at the Pan Pans has been hard enough, but to make the decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games has been very difficult.
“It’s the right decision long-term though, because the sooner I can get the shoulder looked at properly and have the surgery done, the sooner I can get back in the pool, training at 100 per cent,” she said.
The Beijing gold medallist in the 200 and 400m individual medley, and 4x200m freestyle relay will return to Australia next week to have the surgery.
Rice so far took seven cortisone injections this year to cope with pain and her coach Bohl said looking at the larger interest his ward has taken the right decision.
“We have to think about London, and work backwards from there,” he said.
“Having the surgery now will give Steph (Rice) every chance to be fit for the national trials next year, ahead of the world championships, which ultimately then leads into preparation for London 2012,” Bohl added.
A disappointing Swimming Australia head coach Leigh Nugent said Rice’s loss is big setback for the Delhi-bound team.
“There is no question Stephanie is a fantastic athlete, but unfortunately all athletes have their hurdles,” said Nugent.
“The priority is to get her back to top fitness as soon as possible and to do that she will have to miss the rest of the these championships and the Commonwealth Games. She will come back stronger from this injury,” she said.