The greatest sporting event in the world – the Olympics – is less than a month away with athletes engaged in last-minute preparations in hopes of winning a medal. But, with each passing day more people are joining the growing list of athletes to pull out of Rio because of Zika virus concerns.
Although World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Emergency Committee on Zika stated that there is only “a very low risk” of further spreading of the virus to other territories, many high-profile athletes have refused to even take the ‘risk’ of travelling to Rio. Golf, which is making a comeback to the quadrennial event after a gap of 112 years, has seen the most number of pull-outs with more than 20 male golfers opting out of the event. Apart from golf, cycling, and tennis have also seen high-profile stars pulling out of the event due to Zika virus concerns. Here is a list of high-profile athletes to have pulled out of Rio citing Zika virus fears.
1. Jason Day – Golf – Australia
"It is with deep regret I announce that I will not be competing in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games this coming August in Rio de Janeiro.
"The reason for my decision is my concerns about the possible transmission of the Zika virus and the potential risks that it may present to my wife's future pregnancies and to future members of our family," the World No.1 golfer had said in a statement.
Although he is the best golfer on the planet, the Australian opted to skip the fight for an Olympic gold with him having concerns about the Zika virus. The reigning US PGA Championship winner had previously spoken about his desire to compete at the quadrennial event, but with the Zika virus a possible risk for his family, the 28-year-old decided to skip the event.
2. Milos Raonic – Tennis – Canada
A week after making it to the final of the Wimbledon, Milos Raonic opted to skip the Rio Olympics with him having concerns about the mosquito-borne virus.
"I am making this decision for a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around Zika," he said.
"I do not wish to impact the decision of any other athlete heading to the Games.
"I look forward to cheering on Team Canada this summer," he added.
3. Simona Halep – Tennis – Romania
The fifth-ranked women’s tennis player became the latest athlete to pull out of the Olympics citing Zika virus fears.
“Family is much too important for me, and I can’t risk not being able to have one of my own after my career in tennis is over,” said the 2014 French Open runner-up in her Facebook post.
4. Dustin Johnson – Golf – United States of America
The US Open champion and World No.2 was the first US golfer to announce his decision to skip the Olympics due to Zika virus fears.
"This was not an easy decision for me. "I feel it would be irresponsible to put myself, her or our family at risk. I believe I am making the right decision for me and most importantly, my family. While I am sure some will be critical of my decision, my hope is that most will understand and support it," Johnson said announcing his decision to skip the Olympics.
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5. Rory McIlroy - Golf – Ireland
The former World No.1 was one of the first golfers to announce the decision of skipping the quadrennial event.
"After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," McIlroy said in a statement. "After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realise that my health and my family's health comes before anything else.
"Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take. I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me. I will continue to endeavour to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it,” he said in a statement explaining his decision.
6. Tejay van Garderen - Cycling - United States
The American cyclist is one of the few athletes outside of golf to withdrew from the Olympics due to Zika virus concerns.
“Although the risks associated with the Zika virus can be minimal and precautions can be taken, my wife Jessica is pregnant, and I don’t want to risk bringing anything back that could potentially have an effect,” Van Garderen said in a statement through USA Cycling. “If circumstances were different I would have loved to be selected again to represent the USA but my family takes priority and it’s a decision that I’m completely comfortable with. I hope I’ll be in the position to race at the 2020 Olympic Games,” said Tejay van Garderen.
7. Tomas Berdych – Tennis – Czech Republic
The World No.8, who made it to the semi-final of the Wimbledon, became the latest athlete to pull out of the Olympics on July
"It was a hard decision for me to take after a long and painstaking discussion with my dearest," said Berdych on Twitter.
"It is purely my personal decision but I still feel a need to give at least one of the serious reasons leading to this step to my supporters and fans.
"It is because of the Zika virus spread in the country of the Olympics. As I have founded a family recently, to limit health risks towards my nearest is the utmost priority.
"I apologise to all of you who are disappointed by my decision. I do believe that if you take a deeper account of my reasons you will understand that I have done it out of the responsibility for my family,” he added.