BIRMINGHAM, England — A chronic nerve problem in his back has forced decathlete Maurice Smith to withdraw from the athletics competition at the London Olympic Games which get underway in London in a week.
The Osaka World Championships silver medallist and national record-holder (8,644 points) told the Jamaica Observer a few days ago that he would not be taking part. This was confirmed yesterday by coach Maurice Westney, who will be in charge of the field event athletes at the Olympics.
Westney spoke to the Sunday Observer following a church service at the Birmingham Cathedral which was attended by members of the Jamaican and American teams and confirmed what the Sunday Observer had learned three days ago.
The 31-year-old Smith, who won the Pan-Am gold medal in 2007 but withdrew from the last two IAAF World Championships in 2009 and 2011 due to various injuries, said he was suffering a painful inflammation of the sciatica nerve and sought a number of medical opinions, including renowned sport doctor Hans Muller Wolfarth in Germany.
"I got a lot of treatment and needle treatment but I'm still in a lot of pain," he said, indicting that most of the pain was in his left leg which would get numb at times.
"I remember calling my mother from Germany in tears," Smith told the Sunday Observer during a break from training as a number of athletes used the time-off to visit the centre of the West Midlands city.
Smith, a former Calabar and Auburn University athlete, told the Sunday Observer he had made the decision to withdraw in the week following the JAAA/Supreme Ventures National Senior Trials and had advised the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), but was allowed to remain in the team and act as a mentor for the younger athletes.
He said it was his conscience which forced him to reveal his injury before the team assembled in Birmingham for the training camp.
"I could have come here and then tell them, but I couldn't do that," he said. "I tried hard to get fit, but when I realised I could not even run a 400m in under a minute, I knew I would not be able to compete to the best of my abilities," he explained.
Smith has ruled out surgery, however, saying if he did, "that would mean I would have to retire and I am not ready for that yet".
Smith qualified for the decathlon after scoring 8,214 points while placing second at the Pan American Games last year and would have been attending his third Olympics after placing 14th in Athens in 2004 and ninth in Beijing four years ago.
The sciatica is the longest nerve in the body and comes out of the middle of the back between vertebraes where it splits in two and runs down over the gluteus muscles to the back of the knees where it again splits in two and runs all the way to the big and little toes of each foot.