World 400 meters hurdles champion Jana Rawlinson has been forced to withdraw from next month's Beijing Olympic Games team because of a long-standing toe injury, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said yesterday.
Rawlinson, who won her second world championship title last year in Japan just months after giving birth to her first child, returned to competition in Poland last week after the toe problem and subsequent surgery in January kept her out for nine months.
"The key to her Beijing chances would be how she pulled up from her Poland race and sadly she had been unable to train since she raced," the AOC said in a statement.
"The 25-year-old had been racing against time for several months and has now exhausted all possible options."
Rawlinson had earlier in the day been confirmed by the AOC in the athletics team and was probably the country's leading medal hope.
"I'm shattered. I feel like I've let a lot of people down," Rawlinson told The Age.
"I've got to work out when my health comes first because this has just gone past the point of no return and I'm worried that if I don't rehabilitate my body I'm finished and I love my sport too much to risk permanent injury.
'I know there's still 40 days to go (until the Games track and field events) - I'm very aware of that - but we just think we've exhausted all the options in terms of getting out a performance we would be satisfied with at the Olympics, and it just hasn't happened."
Rawlinson's chances had appeared to improve greatly with news that Russia's world record holder Yulia Pechyonkina was suffering heart problems and likely to miss Beijing, while leading Americans Lashinda Demus and Christine Spence both missed out on the Games in their country's trials last week.
It is the second Olympic setback of Rawlinson's career.
She finished fifth at Athens after a knee injury hampered her final preparations, a year after winning her first world title in Paris.