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Perry Baker, World Rugby Player of the Year, broke fibula five months before Olympics

Perry Baker

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 04: Perry Baker #11 of the United States carries the ball in for a try against Argentina during the Cup Final during the USA Sevens Rugby tournament at Sam Boyd Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Getty Images)

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Perry Baker, the world’s top male rugby sevens player in 2017 and 2018, said he suffered a broken fibula in a match on Feb. 21 and is rehabbing to return before the Tokyo Olympics that open July 23.

“I was running, got caught up underneath me and just popped it,” Baker said Wednesday. “The doctors told me that it’s nothing serious. Put a little pin it, and I’ll be fine. I’ll be back. So, actually, I’m walking right now. He told me, at the end of this month, I should be running.”

The Olympic roster is expected to be named in late June or early July.

Baker suffered the lower-leg injury at a tournament in Madrid (video here). USA Rugby does not disclose details of player injuries. A broken tibia, the other lower-leg bone, is a far worse injury.

Baker, who took up rugby full-time after being cut as a Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver after he failed a physical over a torn meniscus in 2011, joined the national team in 2014 at age 27.

He made the roster for Rio as rugby returned to the Olympics for the first time in 92 years. But Baker was on the sideline for the crucial last minute of a group finale loss to Fiji. The U.S. missed advancing to the quarterfinals by one tiebreaking point.

Baker was named World Player of the Year the next two years, becoming the first man to earn the honor twice. In 2019, he helped the U.S. to a program-best second-place finish in the season-long World Series standings. The Americans became Olympic medal contenders.

Then came misfortune. The U.S. opened the 2019-20 Olympic season with eighth- and ninth-place finishes in December 2019 World Series legs.

When the Tokyo Olympics were postponed and the World Series stopped with two legs left on the campaign, the Americans were ranked seventh, their lowest spot in the final standings since 2014.

The team went to Madrid two months ago for its first international competition in nearly one year. That’s where the most acclaimed American player of this Olympic cycle got hurt, but Baker expressed optimism Wednesday.

“The doctors told me I’m super strong,” he said with a smile.

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