High-profile sporting withdrawals

Tennis Features
Rafael Nadal ATP World Tour Finals

Rafael Nadal’s decision to pull out of the ATP World Tour Finals won’t be the first or the last time that a high-profile athlete or team have left a major tournament on the back foot after dropping out. Let’s look at some other sporting withdrawals.

On Monday evening the ATP World Tour Finals received a setback as one of their biggest draws in Rafael Nadal threw in the towel due to injury. It was the sixth time that the Spaniard has withdrawn from the season-ending event having qualified on 13 occasions.

Here are some other sporting withdrawals, whether it is because of political reasons, injury problems or logistical nightmares.

1930 FIFA World Cup
While several entries on this list were due to serious issues, you can’t help but snigger at this one as several top European nations skipped the event.

The likes of Italy, the Netherlands and Spain didn’t attend because they were not happy with FIFA’s decision to award the World Cup to Uruguay.

Then you had the Home Nations England, Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales who missed the tournament as they were not part of FIFA at the time due to a feud with the international body.

Austria, Czechoslovakia and Switzerland pulled out due to the three-week boat trip.

And finally, Denmark and Germany stayed at home because professionals were set to take part for the first time and they were not happy with that.

Hosts Uruguay won the tournament, beating Argentina in the final.

For the record, Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia were the European teams who made the trip by sea to Uruguay and yes, three of those teams (Belgium, France and Romania) all came via the same ship, while the Brazilians were also picked up along the way.

1980 Moscow Olympics & 1984 Los Angeles Olympics
Only 80 countries pitched up at the first Olympics held in Eastern Europe in Moscow in 1984 as the other 65 boycotted the event due to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Despite the boycott from countries such as Great Britain, Australia, France, Italy and Spain, some of their athletes still competed under the Olympic flag.

In a tit-for-tat battle, the Soviet Union and its allies then decided to skip the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, with the USSR officially citing security concerns and “chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria being whipped up in the United States” as the reasons for missing the Games.

Besides the USSR, other notable absentees at the 1984 Games were Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Ethiopia and Poland.

1970 South African Cricket Tour to England & 2003 Cricket World Cup
Several countries and sporting organisations boycotted South Africa during apartheid and the cancelled 1970 tour to England is perhaps the most noteworthy.

Rated one of the best Test teams at the time, the South Africans were set to tour England in 1970, but it was called off on the back of violent demonstrations at home and global protests against the apartheid regime. South Africa’s proposed tour of Australia in 1971-72 was cancelled on similar grounds.

Politics also played its part in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

On the back of pressure from back home over the Robert Mugabe regime, England refused to travel to Zimbabwe for their Pool A game, with the points going to the hosts as a result of the walkover. It proved costly as England failed to make the Super Six stage.

2002-2014 Indian Wells Masters
The controversy started in 2001 when Venus Williams withdrew from her semi-final match against sister Serena Williams. With Serena getting a free ride into the final, fans didn’t take kindly to it and booed the American during her win over Kim Clijsters.

Their father Richard later claimed the boos were racially motivated and the Williams sisters didn’t feature at the Indian Wells Masters from 2002 until 2015. Serena was the first to make an appearance again as she made it to the semi-final in 2015, while Venus competed in 2016 again.

2005 United States Grand Prix
This is surely the most bizarre race in Formula 1 history as only six cars, instead of the usual 20, were on the grid when the lights went out at Indianapolis on June 19, 2005.

The reason?

The other 14 cars on Michelin tyres pulled out after completing the formation lap due to safety concerns.

The drama started after several tyre failures during practice on Friday and Michelin asked the FIA to make changes to Turn 13 in order to avoid more blowouts. It resulted in a weekend of speculation, plans, meetings, drama – but the FIA was having none of it as they felt the changes would have been unfair on fellow tyre manufacturer Bridgestone.

The FIA stuck to their guns and when the chequered flag dropped on the Sunday, only the six Bridgestone cars completed the race with the rest returning to the pits after the formation lap.

For the record, Michael Schumacher won the race with his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello second and Tiago Monteiro claiming his one and only podium for Jordan Grand Prix.

2016 Rio Olympics
A string of top athletes pulled out of the first Olympics to be staged in South America due to fears over the Zika virus, the mosquito-borne disease that can cause birth defects.

Golf was the hardest hit with world number one Jason Day from Australia leading the way in terms of non-starters while he was joined on the list of withdrawals by, among others, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Americans Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, and South African pair Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel.

On the tennis front Canadian Milos Raonic, the Czech Republic duo Tomas Berdych and Karolína Plíšková and Simona Halep from Romania were among those who opted to stay home, while American Tejay van Garderen was the only cyclist to withdraw because of concerns over the Zika virus.

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