Olympic postponement a silver lining for injured sevens star O'Donnell

Sat, 28/03/2020, 09:00 pm
Emma Greenwood
by Emma Greenwood
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has been a silver lining for injured sevens star Ben O'Donnell.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has been an emotional rollercoaster for many athletes but one Aussie Sevens player has had a smile on his face since the announcement the Games will be held in 2021.

Ben O'Donnell's Olympic dreams seemed to be over when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee earlier this year, ending his season and leaving him needing surgery.

But the coronavirus crisis has forced the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organisers to push the Games back a year to 2021, meaning O'Donnell's dream is alive again.

"When I found out that it was Olympics over for me it was pretty tough as you could imagine," O'Donnell said.

"But the last couple of weeks since the Olympics has been postponed, it has given a little opening in the door for me.

"I've seen blokes walking around and they keep telling me I'm the only bloke that's smiling around here.

"For me it is a little silver lining, a little chance, a little creak in the door, still a long way to go, still got over nine months of rehabilitation and still need to force my way back into that team that were playing outstanding."

O'Donnell believes the correct decision was made around the Olympic postponement.

"It's obviously a common sense decision for some medical professionals around the world, so I do think the right decision has been made, just obviously a difficult time for all the players and staff involved, not just in Australia but all around the world," he said.

"A lot of teams have worked pretty hard through their qualifications to secure a spot there and it's tough to get in there.

"I think our boys, we were building nicely, which was disappointing that the time of the Olympics has been pushed back but I guess it just gives us more time to … come back bigger and better."

And the new timing has a silver lining for O'Donnell. The 24-year-old centre has been one of Australia's best players over the past two years and the prospect of missing the Games was a massive blow not only personally but for the Australian team.

His teammates, already a great support during his rehabilitation, are pleased O'Donnell will have the chance once again to strive for his Olympic dream.

"They're your core support unit at the time (of an injury) along with your family and friends but you see these blokes every day, they become your family," he said.

"I've heard from every single one of them positively so they're almost, not happy that the Olympics have been postponed but they're happy for me that I've got a chance as well."

The postponement of the Games has led to an enforced break for the sevens players, while the ongoing coronavirus crisis had led to plenty of down time - something the man known as 'BOD' is already accustomed to.

"With the injury I've had, I've been parked up on the couch anyway so I've had a bit of practice - Seinfeld's been my main entertainment but it's been pretty easy for me," he said.

While he still has a long rehab road ahead, O'Donnell is raring to get back into action, believing the Aussies have the ability to compete with any team on their day.

"Sevens is a game where anyone can beat anyone and it just shows when you're on your day … you can beat anyone - but you can lose to anyone as well," he said.

"Showing that we could finally find some consistency in the last couple of tournaments even with a few people missing and some new names in the team, it just shows our program's come a long way and how Walshy (coach Tim Walsh) has put together the team and how the boys are working together.

"Anything's possible with that group we've got."

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