Hearthbreaking news for the USA Sevens as Ben Pinkelman announced his withdrawal form the Eagles for the Tokyo Olympic Games 18 days before kick off.
Pinkelman was forced to Withdraw from the Olympic USA team due to a chronic back injury. The USA Eagles staple player received an epidural that was meant to improve his condition but the procedure saw no improvement.
With no progress in sight after undergoing all possible options, the medical personnel had no choice but to deem the Olympian unfit to play for the Tokyo Games.
The 13th alternate, Brett Thompson will take Pinkelman’s place while Cody Melphy will take the new place as alternate. Melphy can now be played at any time according to the new rule by the International Olympic Committee, if he is approved as the replacement alternate.
The new rule now allows select sports to activate their alternate for any given match, this gives teams the ability to select a new 12 player lineup from the entire group of 13 each game. This means the 13th player has the same role as any of the 12 players, the 14th and 15th traveling reserves can still only be put on to cover injuries up to two days ahead of competition.
The big man, Pinkelman will have to undergo surgery and continue with his rehab as he set his eye on his international rugby return. Until then the Olympian will still be part of the video reviews and team meetings to further share his vast knowledge of the game.
“I love this game. I love this team,” said Pinkelman.
“I like to think I’ve played every game and every minute like it’s my last and I’ve enjoyed every second of my time on the field. I have no regrets, but the ups and downs of managing this back injury for the last 3 years has been one of the toughest challenges of my life.
“Like many rugby players I pride myself on playing through injuries and pain but with recent setbacks, I’ve reached a point where it is no longer safe or possible for me to compete.
“After missing the medal rounds in 2016 by a points differential of one, winning a medal is all I’ve really cared about. The Olympics and rugby are how I represent the people in my life that I care about. It truly means everything to me and I take pride in knowing I did everything I could, and tried as hard as possible to represent them and my country.
“I know this team will make themselves and this country proud. It’s going to break my heart watching them take the field at the Olympics but I know they can win gold.”
Head Coach Mike Friday’s reaction to Pinkelman’s injury.
“It’s hugely disappointing for all of us that Pinky has had to withdraw and we are gutted as a squad,” said Friday. “Ben is an absolute warrior but he has to be sensible now as his physical well-being is of paramount importance to all of us. We need to get his back healthy.
“He is a world-class forward on the World Rugby Sevens Series who is a huge part of the Dawgs on and off the pitch.”