Three of this country’s Olympic medal hopefuls Cleopatra Borel, Machel Cedenio and Andrew Lewis are staying focused on participating at the Rio, Olympic Games this August 5th -21st, even as top athletes around the world continue express concern about the Zika virus in the host country Brazil.
Some of the world’s best talent such as PGA tour veteran and Fiji national Vijay Singh reportedly told Olympic officials in his country of his intent to not participate because of “the Zika virus,” while Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal tweeted he was out.
But five-time First Citizens Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year and Commonwealth gold medallist Borel, IAAF Diamond League 400-metre gold medal winner Cedenio and Olympic sailor Lewis, have all told the T&T Guardian of their intention to stay the course in Rio.
Their decisions were not promulgated solely on personal interest, however, but for the greater national good, in keeping with the T&T Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) mandate of ten or more gold medals by 2024.
Olympic medalists Keston Bledman, Lalonde Gordon, Emmanuel Callender, Richard Thompson, as well as Games cyclist Njisane Phillip were contacted for this report, but were not immediately available for comment.
After thousands of training hours and tremendous sacrifice, while managing and maintaining a strict diet over the past four years, international athletes whose health fears have not allayed by Brazilian authorities have bowed out of the Games.
Meanwhile, the United States would seek to defend its Olympic title without the two-time defending NBA MVP Steph Curry of Golden State Warriors fame, who announced that rehabilitating ankle and knee injuries during the Olympics would take priority.
Staying in North America where cyclist Hesjedal, to only Canadian win a Grand Tour cycling race and the winner of the 2012 Giro d’Italia gave no specific reason for withdrawing his name for Rio consideration. In a twitter post on June 3, he tweeted, “Been thinking long and hard about Rio and I’ve decided to take myself out of the selection. Long season ahead! Best of luck Team Canada!!” World number one golfer Jason Day said he was considering not being part of the 60-player field this August in Rio because of concerns over the Zika virus, as did South African Charl Schwartzel and Australian Marc Leishman. Their decisions were controversial citing that golf was returning as an Olympic sport this year for the first time in more than a century.
Meanwhile, Spanish basketball player Pau Gasol who averaged 16.5 points and 11 rebounds this past NBA season, pondered over playing at the Olympics due to similar concerns.
Borel said, “I understand that Zika is a concern for a lot of athletes, but after I’ve committed the past four years of my life to nothing but track and field, it’s really difficult to forego the Olympics. I’ll try to take as many precautions as I can, but at the end of the day I am going to go to the Games. I believe that things will be as they are written.”
While there had been no team discussion on the issue to date, Cedenio said, he had been monitoring official communication from Brazilian officials.
“Chances of getting the virus is less than ten per cent, so right now I am not too concerned about contracting Zika,” he said.
Lewis, who had been to Rio multiple times in the past ten months as part of his preparation ahead of the Games did not immediately share the concerns of scratched athletes.
“I have been down there many times. I am not sure if these athletes have. Richard Thompson was down here recently. I am in Rio for the first time this year for the first of two camps before the Olympics. All those things are just part of life. You have to live around them, but keep dreaming of the big goal and keep your eyes on the prize. So that’s my plan,” he said.