Athletes withdrawing from Olympics due to Zika

With the Rio Olympics starting in just a few days, the Zika virus remains the primary concern for athletes who are going to Brazil. In sports like golf, tennis, and basketball, some of the biggest names in the world have withdrawn due to fears of the virus, and some others are still contemplating whether to go. Some of the early tennis expert picks to win medals at the Olympics won’t be in Rio for the event due to their concerns about Zika, while others like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal don’t have a problem going to Rio.

Zika has been prevalent in Brazil and has left a lot of athletes who had planned on participating in the Olympics with a big decision. Their options right now are to participate in the Olympics, which are a culmination of all the hard work they have put in the last three to four years, or to skip the games and avoid contracting the disease.

For many athletes, missing out on the Olympics is not an option because they put in countless hours of work to be able to represent their countries; not going would be a waste of all that hard work and sacrifice.

For other athletes, going to Rio is not worth it because they might be trying to start a family and don’t want to risk passing on the disease. Some of these athletes have also participated at the Olympics before, so they don’t consider it as big a deal as other athletes who haven’t. A few of these athletes are also young enough and figure they will get another chance to participate in the Olympics in the future.

When it comes to tennis, Benoit Paire—a Frenchman ranked No. 28 in the world—recently said he was going to Rio because the Zika Virus isn’t something that he is too concerned about. He noted that he has heard a lot about Zika and its potential dangers, but he really wants to be in Rio to represent his country. Chinese player Shuai Zhang, a 27-year-old, echoed Paire’s statement.

Tunisian competitor Malek Jaziri, who is going to his second Olympics, said he refused to drop out because he won’t allow fear to run his life. Jaziri went so far as to explain that we don’t get to choose when we die; when our time is up, it’s up.
Zverev Jaziri
Other big-name players who have dropped out due to Zika concerns are Simona Halep, the fifth-ranked woman in the world, Tomas Berdych (a top 10 player), and Milos Raonic—who lost to Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final.

Golf is probably the sport most affected by Zika. Three of the top four men in the world have withdrawn from the Olympics, so there won’t be as many big names as the organizers and fans had hoped.

Although golf was recently made an Olympic sport again, it is—unfortunately for the sport’s fans–only on a trial basis and will be up for review in the near future. The lack of attendance by the top players is a factor the organizers will take into account in determining if it is worth keeping golf as an Olympic sport. According to several sources close to the situation, golf will likely be eliminated by the 2024 Olympics due in part to the lack of attendance at Rio.

Despite so many athletes dropping out, there are some who are bypassing participation in the Summer Games for different reasons. John Isner, the top-ranked American male tennis player, withdrew months ago while explaining that he would no chance of improving his world ranking. Another reason is the fact that many athletes get paid millions of dollars in their chosen sport and won’t be compensated as well for participating in the Olympics. Additionally, the fear of injury is always a concern. If an athlete who being paid millions gets injured during the Olympics and does not have a long-term guaranteed contract, he or she could end up losing a ton of money.
The injury issue is a big one, and owners of professional teams like Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks have been vocal about not wanting their players in the Olympics.

No matter what reason an athlete has for participating or not participating in the Olympics, the bottom line is that it is their life and they are free to do as they please.

6 Comments on Athletes withdrawing from Olympics due to Zika

  1. Conflicting rumours are rife and the Nadal camp are cagey. However contrary to reports he cancelled his practice with Murray the following clip tells a different story

    • I haven’t heard/read conflicting rumors.
      On July 22 (when the clip you posted was made), Rafa and A.Murray practiced side by side, not on the same court. (The authors of the video made fun.)
      You can see Rafa behind the fence:

      Rafa had no intention to practice with A.Murray before the middle of this week.

      Cadena SER (Radio Mallorca, SER Deporte Baleares program) reported that Rafa cancelled his training on with A.Murray on July 26 (Tuesday) they had planned in advance.
      Rafa & A.Murray had their first practice session together on July 27 (Wednesday).

  2. Gussie: You are a hard taskmaster!. I swear you can spot woolly facts from Ed in your sleep.

    I tend to think in broad strokes. I get the general gist of things even if I’m rather vague about the finer details e.g. dates. It used to drive my late husband bonkers. He had a legal mind for detail.

    Your skills would be invaluable as a sub-editor in a publishing house.

  3. Please, just please!
    You are completely wrong! There is no Zika during the winter, the risk is almost zero!!! Golfers and some tennis players are not going bcos there is no money and points!!! Dominic Thiem was the only one who had the courage to admit this! All the rest are selfish and they just don’t care about their flags!
    Read what Bruno Soares said about it!
    How many Brazilian and South American athletes are sick or are not going bcos of Zika???

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