A team’s changing room is supposed to be a sanctuary for athletes. Somewhere they can get away from the heat of competition while regrouping for the battles to come.
Unfortunately for Australian basketball player Aron Baynes, when he headed into the team’s locker room it was far from a sanctuary. The complete opposite, in fact.
Baynes suffered an on-court neck injury during the Aussies’ matchup versus Italy on Wednesday, but it wasn’t until he slipped in the change room that his Olympic dream officially came to an end.
“It was a complicated series of events,” Australian Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Hughes told reporters on Friday. “He did suffer an injury during the match on the court, and then he had a slip in the bathroom and suffered further injury.
The current Toronto Raptor had scored 14 points in just 14 minutes against the Italians before he was forced to leave the game.
Australian coach Brian Goorjian was originally optimistic that they would have the big man back for the medal push, but after further tests, it was determined that the 34-year-old will need several weeks to recover from the fall. He was also taken to a local hospital for additional, precautionary testing.
The loss of Baynes is a devastating blow for an Australian men’s team looking to win their first Olympic medal. They have been on the cusp, finishing fourth in four separate Games, but have never been able to get over the final hump. The Boomers came into Tokyo ranked third, primed to put their medal-less past behind them.
Australia is off to a good start in Tokyo, winning their opening two games in Group B against Italy and Nigeria. They will finish up group play by taking on Germany.
But without their starting centre, their forward depth will be tested once they face more difficult competition, especially against top-ranked squads such as the USA and Spain. Even though he won’t be out on the court, Baynes is still confident his teammates will rise to the occasion.
«I, along with the rest of the team, have been working so hard in our quest for a historic Olympic medal and I am gutted that I can’t complete the journey with the boys’,” Baynes told reporters. “But I have every confidence that they will get the job done».
The men’s basketball group stage concludes on Aug 1., with the quarterfinals beginning on Aug. 3.
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