Discus world champion Dani Samuels has delivered a huge blow to the Commonwealth Games team, becoming the first Australian athlete to pull out of next month’s event in Delhi due to security and health fears.
A tearful Samuels, 22, informed Australian team officials of her decision on Tuesday.
It came two days after two Taiwanese tourists were injured in a shooting at the Jama Masjid mosque.
There has also been an outbreak of dengue fever in the Indian capital.
“Dani is extremely distressed about it all,” Samuels’ manager Hayden Knowles told AAP.
“The situation in Delhi has been bothering her for some time.
“But the events over the weekend made it real.
“She had prepared her whole season around winning this thing, she even knocked back some Diamond League meets because it affected her training.
“She called me last night and then met with her coach and she couldn’t even bring herself to train because she felt so bad.
“Her decision to pull out was a shock to us, but in a way it wasn’t that much of a shock because we knew something was wrong.
“She was hiding it and then it all got too much for her.
“She was in tears when she told us.”
Gold medal chances dented
Samuels’ withdrawal robs the Australian team of a near-certain gold medal, as she is far and away the standout performer in women’s discus, a discipline with little depth at Commonwealth level.
The popular Sydneysider was also one of only two reigning world champions in the Australian track and field team, along with pole vault superstar Steve Hooker.
Knowles said he hoped Samuels’s decision to withdraw from the Delhi Games wouldn’t affect other Australian athletes, as that was not her intention.
“I wouldn’t think she’s got that much influence and she certainly doesn’t want that,” said Knowles.
“She found it hard to announce her decision because of how it might affect other athletes in the team.
“Many of them are really close friends and they don’t know about this yet .
“She was very distressed about it.”
The Australian squad has already lost several big names due to injury, including world championships long jump bronze medallist Mitchell Watt, 400m hurdler Tristan Thomas and walker Jess Rothwell.
Reigning 400m champ John Steffensen withdrew because of a spat with Athletics Australia (AA).
But Samuels’ decision to pull out is a much bigger blow, due to her global profile and the reasons for her withdrawal.
“She loves competing for her country, she’s felt that thrill of holding the Australian flag at world youth, world junior and world senior level on numerous occasions,” said Knowles.
“And one of her real highlights was the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, when she finished third as a 17-year-old and after that set it out as a clear goal to win one.
“Although all the issues about the Games have been raised now and then it’s never got so real until now.
“What she told (AA chief executive Dallas O’Brien) was that it was the hazards that were there, not just the terrorism.
“She’s done her own research, had some sleepless nights and come to her own decision.”
Samuels won gold at the world titles in Berlin last year with a personal best of 65.44m.
She increased that PB to 65.84m early in 2010.