French handball legend Nikola Karabatic is expected to miss a minimum 6–8 months after rupturing his right anterior cruciate ligament in a league match while playing for his club PSG.
The 36-year-old centre back will definitely miss January's World Men's Handball Championship in Egypt as well as the Olympic Qualifying Tournament on home soil in March, and is a serious doubt for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
While he could return in time for the Games, Karabatic's age will be a factor in his recovery and return to full fitness. The men's handball tournament in Tokyo begins on 24 July, the day after the Opening Ceremony.
"I've been pretty proud to keep up with the pace of top-level matches for so long without a big injury," Karabatic said to L'Équipe. "I no longer have that invincibility ... I take this as a personal challenge."
The 313-cap French international has played in each of France's last 21 international competitions, a run that will be forced to an end in January.
With such a serious injury, a long period of rehabilitation will follow. At 36, will Karabatic decide that rehab isn't worth the pain? He has already won two Olympic golds (and a silver), four World Championships, three European Championships, and three club Champions Leagues.
Karabatic indicated he intends to return.
"There will be rehabilitation, then training, hoping to regain the same form I had before I was injured," he said. "I'm not looking further. Rehabilitation will be long but it is part of the life of an athlete.
"What gives me hope is that I know that with my healthy lifestyle and my willpower in training, I will rehabilitate well. Whether I'm 36, 37, or 25, I don't think age makes a difference. But we never know. I don't worry too much. I'm not worried about recovering and coming back.
"I will do everything to recover as quickly as possible."