AAP: AUSTRALIA’S Olympic team has been hit with a double blow, with Lleyton Hewitt and gun cyclist Simon Gerrans withdrawing from the Games.
Hewitt has opted out of his role as Australian men’s tennis team coach in Rio. Tennis Australia has applied to the Australian Olympic Committee to replace Hewitt with Mark Draper, with the former world No 1 reportedly citing “personal reasons” for withdrawing.
Hewitt had previously expressed interest in also seeking a wildcard doubles entry at the Games and his exit is another big blow to the team after the nations’ top two players, Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, made themselves unavailable.
It puts Aussie tennis in the Olympic spotlight again, with team chef de mission Kitty Chiller and Kyrgios already embroiled in some public slanging matches in recent months.
Hewitt’s bid to play doubles in Brazil — where he was considering teaming up with John Peers — was rejected.
The makeshift men’s team in Rio is set to be made up of Thanasi Kokkinakis, John Millman and doubles specialists John Peers and Chris Guccione.
Hewitt is a three-time Olympian, having donned the green and gold at the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Games.
His most successful campaign came at the 2012 London Games, when he went down in three sets to Novak Djokovic in the third rounds of the singles and also advanced to the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles with Samantha Stosur.
Australia’s women’s team should be much stronger than the men’s outfit in Rio, with Stosur and Daria Gavrilova both entered in the singles.
]Meanwhile, Australia’s Olympic road cycling medal hopes were severely dented with star rider Simon Gerrans forced out through injury.
Gerrans has been ruled out after undergoing surgery at the weekend on a broken collarbone suffered in a crash in the Tour de France on Friday (AEST). He needed to have screws inserted, which he showed off in a photo tweeted out to his 114,000 followers.
Despite crashing during stage 12 of the Tour, the Orica-BikeExchange team member continued riding, but later had to pull out when the seriousness of his injury was confirmed.
“Following my crash in stage 12 of the Tour de France resulting in a broken clavicle, with enormous regret I would like to inform you of my decision to withdraw from the Australian team for the Rio Olympic Games,” Gerrans said in a statement.
“My goal at the Olympic Games was to get the best result possible for Australia. With my current injury my preparation would be seriously jeopardised, and so too my performance at the Games.
“For Australia to have the best chance to achieve the best result possible, I feel I should be replaced by one of the riders in the squad.”
The 36-year-old Gerrans would have been a key figure in Australia’s men’s road race team in Rio.
Now the team will be relying on Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis. A final rider is yet to be named, but Cycling Australia high performance director Kevin Tabotta said they would look to name a replacement by the end of the week.
“We’re going to take the next few days to assess the athletes we have inside the shadow team shortlist, those athletes know who they are and (coach) Brad McGee will be in contact with them,” Tabotta was quoted as saying by The Advertiser.
“Those athletes are involved in the Tour de France and races like Poland so it’s important Brad has a conversation with them, where they’re at form-wise and attain data on their condition.
“With that we will have a selection meeting in coming days, there is no massive rush and a lot can happen in racing.
“But we would be looking to have (the rider) in place by the end of the week and activate a late replacement under IOC policy.”