In a huge blow to the hopes of one of the two host nations for this summer’s World Championships, Bulgarian setter Georgi Bratoev has been ruled out of the tournament after undergoing surgery for a broken foot.
The injury, originally suffered during week 3 of the Nations League, has brought a roller-coaster of emotions to Bratoev’s teammates. At first, it appeared severe, but then the team was brought initial relief when he was on the next week’s roster anyway. After the foot continued to cause him pain, he underwent an MRI which revealed the break, but still was anticipated to return for the World Championships, which begin on September 9th – almost 2 months after his surgery.
The latest turn has him out of the tournament after evaluation by a French doctor.
The 30-year old Bratoev has spent more than a decade with the Bulgarian team, including a bronze medal won at the 2009 European Championships. 25-year old Georgi Seganov took over for Bratoev at the Nations League, without much obvious drop-off in performance. Both players are very tall for the position (Bratoev is 6’8″, Seganov is 6’6″), and Seganov wound up with a higher running-sets-per-set average at the Nations League than did Bratoev.
The team was 2-3 before Bratoev’s injury and 3-4 after, in spite of the tougher matches, including a finale win over Brazil, coming in the back half of their tournament.
The team left on Monday for a high-altitude training camp in Belmeken, where they will stay until August 11th.
“The aim of this camp is to get in good physical condition so that players can recover better after World Championship matches,” said Konstantin Plamen.
He lamented the challenges that the team is having with injuries suffered in the Nations League ahead of the July 30th deadline to cut his roster to 22 players, saying that he’s having to bring extra players at every position save for libero because of some uncertainty around the health of his players.
As a result, he has called, for example, Miroslav Gradinarov, who can play as a reserve at two positions.
Bulgaria, who play their first-round pool at home in Varna, will host Cuba, Finland, Iran, Poland, and Puerto Rico in what turned out to be a much more challenging pool than their co-hosts Italy had to face. They will need to finish only in the top 4 in that pool, however, to advance to the 2nd round of competition.
They will play the opening match of the whole tournament, on September 9th, against Finland.