Australian forced out of championship

SYDNEY -- Former sprint world record holder Eamon Sullivan has pulled out of the world championships in Rome because of a virus, Swimming Australia said Sunday.

Sullivan withdrew from the Barcelona and Monaco legs of the Mare Nostrum Series last month and then competed at the Paris Open and in Milan. But the 23-year-old Sullivan is still ill and will return to Australia for further diagnosis.

Backstroker Hayden Stoeckel has also withdrawn from the championships, which start in Rome on July 26, because of a shoulder injury while training.

Sullivan set two world records before the 100 freestyle final at the Beijing Olympics, but settled for second behind Alain Bernard of France when medals were on the line. Sullivan also formerly held the world record in the 50 freestyle.

With Sullivan entered in the 50 and 100 freestyle, and Stoeckel set to swim the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke in Rome, Swimming Australia coach Alan Thompson said it was a tough blow to the Australian team.

"To lose two Olympic medalists this close to the start of the world championships is pretty disappointing, but we've taken this decision with London 2012 in mind," Thompson said from Italy.

"Hayden has been struggling a bit with a shoulder injury in training, which just hasn't healed the way we would have liked, and Eamon has been knocked around by this virus ever since they were in Singapore some six weeks ago."

Neither Sullivan nor Stoeckel will be replaced in the Australian team.