TORONTO — Karch Kiraly injured a shoulder Wednesday in an Olympic qualifying tournament, putting the three-time gold medalist's bid to compete in Sydney in serious doubt.
In an e-mail to the U.S.A. Volleyball press officer, Kiraly, 39, said his right shoulder came out of its socket on the final point of his second straight victory with Adam Johnson during a tournament in Belgium.
"Let me tell you, that is one painful injury," Kiraly wrote in the e-mail to Tim Simmons of U.S.A. Volleyball. "I was really hurting until they were able to put it back in five or 10 minutes later. We're out of the tourney now, the X-rays came out fine, but I'll be out of action for a while, maybe through for this calendar year."
Kiraly, who teamed with Kent Steffes to win the inaugural beach volleyball gold medal in Atlanta in 1996, also won golds with the U.S. indoor teams in 1984 and 1988. He is beach volleyball's career leader with 141 victories and even has a pro tournament named after him in his hometown of Santa Barbara.
He sat out much of the two-year Olympic qualifying process for the Sydney Games, planning on a late rush this summer with Johnson to secure a berth. Each nation is allowed up to two two-member teams in the men's and women's competitions, with host Australia permitted three.
Kiraly and Johnson recently moved into second place on the U.S. qualifying list behind Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong.
The injury means Kiraly and Johnson will miss the rest of the qualifying tournaments, giving Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana a good chance to move past them into second place. Even if Kiraly and Johnson qualified, the injury could prevent Kiraly from competing in Sydney when the Olympics begin on Sept. 15.