A constellation of stars will be missing from action in Rio de Janeiro and we aren’t talking about the dope-tainted Russian athletes.
A constellation of stars will be missing from action in Rio de Janeiro and we aren’t talking about the dope-tainted Russian athletes. Some have pulled out of their own volition, a few have fallen victims to injury and a handful of top athletes haven’t qualified to leave the 2016 Olympics less exciting in athletics, basketball, football, golf and tennis.
The image of golf, which is returning to the Olympics after 112 years, has taken a massive beating after its top four players have cried off from the Rio Games. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have all made the Zika virus the scapegoat as if vengeful mosquitoes are waiting to feast on them exclusively.
The decision of LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the two most popular basketball players today without a shadow of doubt, to opt out of the Rio Games is a big blow to the sport but it was understandable as both needed time to put their feet up after an arduous season. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers needed a seventh game to edge out Curry’s Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals last season.
Roger Federer’s pull-out has robbed tennis of its biggest pull. A dodgy knee prevented the Swiss legend from mounting a final assault on the Olympics singles title that has eluded him in his illustrious career. The Olympics may not see Federer in action again because he is already 34.
Neymar has saved football from embarrassment at its spiritual home. If not for the Brazilian icon, Olympic football will be devoid of star dust. Argentina and Germany have qualified for the Games but they aren’t sending the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Matts Hummels and Thomas Muller to Rio because the players’ priorities are elsewhere.
Australia’s Sally Pearson, 100m hurdles champion in London 2012, tore a hamstring in June to miss the Rio bus. The art of rising to the occasion eluded Kendra Harrison as the high hurdler failed to come through the US qualifiers.