Australian Olympic chief John Coates today described the possibility of world 400m hurdles champion Jana Pittman missing the Olympics as “tragic”.
Pittman is scheduled to meet with an orthopaedic surgeon in Zurich today who will assess whether she requires surgery on her right knee.
The 21-year-old tore her lateral meniscus while warming up for her race at the Zurich Golden League meeting last night.
The Australian team were expecting an update on her condition later in the day but Coates was not optimistic.
“Clearly it does not sound good,” he said.
“I feel very sorry for her. She has put a lot of hard work in and for any athlete to suffer an injury at this stage of the preparation, which was going so well, is very, very tragic.
“She has fought very hard to get where she is. Let’s hope she gets there. She is the only current world champion we have in the track and field.”
As she was leaving the track en route to hospital for the MRI scan, an emotional Pittman told Australia’s Channel Seven she would battle through injury to make the Olympics.
“I know I can do it, I’ll be back, I’ll be strong, I’ll be ready,” she said.
“I’ll be in secret, no-one will know how good a shape I’m in and I’ve just got to have faith and keep strong.”
Former rugby union international and Olympic swimming coach Laurie Lawrence, acting as athletes’ liaison officer and general motivator for the Australians, sent a message of hope to the 21-year-old.
“For the resolute and determined, there is time and opportunity,” he said.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent his wishes for a speedy recovery.
“I know that all Australians will be concerned,” he said.
“She’s a wonderful athlete and a wonderful person and a great representative of our country and we all hope that she’ll get better quickly and be ready.”