DAMIAN Martin had dreamed of representing Australia at an Olympic Games for 20 years.
In and out of the Boomers program since 2007 but a fixture in the squad for the past three-and-a-half years, the 27-year-old Gloucester-born basketballer had every reason to feel confident he had one foot on the plane to London.
But an ankle injury suffered in the National Basketball League grand final series in April left the Perth Wildcats playmaker underdone for the final selection camp in Perth last month, and he was left heartbroken when he was omitted from the final 12-man Olympic team.
Martin received the devastating news via telephone hook-up with Boomers coach Brett Brown, other players and Basketball Australia officials on June 16, then had to keep it to himself for almost a week until the team was officially announced.
Back in Perth, where he is preparing for the Wildcats’ NBL campaign later this year, Martin told the Newcastle Herald yesterday that he wished the Boomers nothing but the best in London this month but admitted it would be difficult to watch the tournament on TV.
‘‘We knew all along that the Perth camp would be the only camp before the team was selected, so personally it wasn’t the ideal preparation because I pretty much hadn’t touched a ball right up to day one because of my ankle injury,’’ Martin said.
‘‘I got through the camp, got through the games, then we got told a week before it was announced so we didn’t have to wait right until the AOC deadline.
‘‘On the Friday we all got a text message to call in to a conference call on the Saturday with the coaches and a few other BA members, where we’d get told whether we made it.
‘‘It was a pretty nerve-racking few nights, and some pretty sleepless nights to tell you the truth leading up to that and Brett kind of took us through the process and that I didn’t make it.
‘‘Obviously you digest it and it’s hard to swallow. It broke my heart when I found out, because I’d put so much into it.
‘‘It’s been my goal for 20 years, ever since I watched the Barcelona Olympics, and it’s literally been a motivating factor for six years since I started coming in and out of the Boomers program, whether it’s been the weights room or shooting or whatever.’’
The NBL’s defensive player of the year for the past two seasons, Martin was the starting point guard in Perth’s championship-winning team in 2009-10 and again last season when beaten 2-1 by New Zealand Breakers in the best-of-three grand final series.
The Lake Macquarie Lightning and Newcastle Hunters junior was then asked to be a reserve for the Boomers’ farewell series against Greece in Victoria, and their final pre-Olympic camp on the Gold Coast last week, which he accepted but struggled to deal with.
‘‘Obviously it was tough to swallow, then I had a few days to think about it, and Brett asked me if I was willing to be a reserve,’’ he said.
‘‘It was nice to know that even though I didn’t make it, he still thought of me as close to being in it, but actually going to Melbourne a few days later to be a reserve was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a professional athlete.
‘‘That’s when the team got officially announced, and we weren’t allowed to tell anyone before that, so keeping it to yourself and going to Melbourne, looking at the other guys knowing they’re about to board a plane to London and you’re not, it was a very hard camp to be at. But I think the way BA did it, they handled it well.
‘‘That was the process of it all, we had the week in Melbourne, a few days at home, then another week on the Gold Coast where I’ve just come back from.’’
Rather than set a long-term goal of making the 2016 Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro, Martin said his immediate focus was the Wildcats’ NBL program and making Australia’s world championship squad in 2014.
‘‘To tell you the truth, right now it’s hard to think of anything Boomers. I hope the boys do well at the Olympics but I don’t know if I’ll be flicking it on,’’ he said.
‘‘Right now, I’m back in Perth getting fit and healthy for the upcoming season, and there’s a world championships in two years’ time and that’s probably more realistic. Four years seems a long, long way away right now to start thinking of, especially after everything that’s gone on.
‘‘I’ll take the time to enjoy basketball back in Perth and I won’t think about Australian Boomers stuff now for at least the next 12 months.’’