Five notable athletes skipping the Olympics
With the opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio on tap for Friday night, many of the world’s most elite athletes have already congregated at the Olympic village.
Unfortunately, those who have arrived in Brazil have been met with terrible water conditions, incomplete facilities, robberies and, of course, Zika concerns.
While many athletes from all corners of the globe have chosen to gamble on the Olympics, many others have not. And when competition eventually get underway, some of the absences will be glaring.
Beyond fears of Zika, concerns over water contamination and the all too real possibility for terrorism, athletes from across the world have opted to skip the Rio Olympics for a variety of reasons.
Here’s a look at the top athletes who have chosen not to participate in 2016.
5. Dennis Kimetto, Track & Field, Kenya
Dennis Kimetto, a marathon and 25 km road distance world-record holder, won’t be setting any new records this summer after making himself unavailable for Kenya’s national team.
Whereas many other athletes from around the world have opted out of the Olympic Games because of injuries or Zika fears, Kimetto, who resides in Eldoret, Kenya, has chosen not to attend “due to the anticipated heat and humidity expected in Rio.”
Kimetto’s manager, Gerard van de Veen, told FloTrack in May that the world-record holder had also dropped out of the World Championships in Beijing last summer for similar reasons.
The loss of Kimetto will deal a substantial blow to the Kenyan national team because they’ll also be without Wilson Kipsang, who is a former world-record holder in the marathon. And on the woman’s side, Mary Keitany, the second-fastest woman in history, will remain at home as well.
4. Bob and Mike Bryan, Tennis, USA
Twin brothers Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan are the most successful doubles tennis players of all-time. Together, they have over 110 men’s doubles titles, 16 grand slam men’s doubles titles, multiple grand slam mixed doubles titles and they won the gold medal in men’s doubles at the 2012 Summer Olympics Games in London.
However, with less than a week to go before the opening ceremonies, the Bryan brothers decided not to defend their gold medal, instead withdrawing from the Olympics due to — you guessed it — Zika concerns.
“After countless hours of deliberation, Mike and I have decided to forego the Rio Olympics. Though we’d love to compete again, as husbands and fathers, our family’s health is now our top priority,” the pair wrote in a Facebook post on July 30. “Representing Team USA is one of our proudest tennis moments to date and winning Gold in 2012 will always remain the pinnacle of our career. The Olympics means so much to us for so many reasons and the memories we have wearing the Stars and Stripes will burn brightly forever.
“Thank you to the USTA for the nomination and to our fans for their unwavering support. We wish every athlete luck in their quest for Olympic glory and hope the Rio games are a positive experience for everyone involved.”
By skipping the Olympics, the Bryan brothers become the two most decorated US athletes who have chosen to forego competition. But they certainly aren’t alone in their sport.
In addition to Bob and Mike, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka announced they would skip the Olympics to recover from injury, while Simona Halep, Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych have each decided to pass due to the Zika virus.
Maria Sharapova, the former world No. 1, will also be absent in Rio as she’s serving a two-year suspension for doping.
3. Tejay van Garderen, Cycling, USA
Cyclist Tejay van Garderen, who has twice finished fifth in the Tour de France, became the very first American to announce he’d be skipping the Olympic Games due to increased Zika fears. In fact, van Garderen was so quick on the draw, he announced his departure from the Games before Team USA even revealed their cycling roster.
“If [my wife] Jessica were not pregnant right now, assuming I was selected, I would go,” van Garderen told CyclingTips in early June. “But the fact is, she is pregnant. If we were just going to start trying, I’d say we could start trying six months after the Olympics. But when she has a baby in her belly, I don’t want to take any chances.”
For van Garderen, the decision to skip the Olympics wasn’t taken lightly despite how quickly it came. He acknowledges having considered the dangers dating back to last fall, ultimately deciding that the well-being of his family, and particularly his wife, came before anything else.
“People are probably going to have different opinions on this. I’m sure they will think what they are going to think, but the fact is, if anything were to happen, I couldn’t live with myself,” he said. “I’m much more at ease with this decision than I would be if I were trying to go to the Olympics.
“Besides. I don’t think this will be my last chance to go to the Olympics. I’m sure I’ll still be around in four years.”
In addition to van Garderen, 33-year-old Spanish cyclist and two-time Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador, has also opted to skip the Rio Games citing injuries and illness.
2. Jason Day, Golf, Australia
Australia’s Jason Day is considered by many to be the best golfer in the world. He’s currently ranked No. 1 and stood a real chance at winning gold in Rio. However, Zika fears loomed larger than the spotlight, and in late June, Day revealed he was opting out of the Rio Olympics in effort to protect his wife.
“The reason for my decision is my concerns about the possible transmission of the Zika virus and the potential risks that it might present to my wife’s future pregnancies and to future members of our family,” Days said in a series of tweets on Twitter. “I have always placed my family in front of everything else in my life. Medical experts have confirmed that while perhaps slight, a decision to compete in Rio absolutely comes with health risks to me and my family. My wife Ellie and I have been blessed with two wonderful and healthy children and our plans is to have more.
“While it has always been a major goal to compete in the Olympics on behalf of my country, playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family. I will not place them at risk.”
Day’s decision to withdraw from the Olympics is not only significant because he’s the sports biggest superstar, but because golf is returning to the Games for the first time since 1904.
Of course, Day is not the only one to say “thanks, but no thanks.” In addition to the world’s No. 1, the sport will also be missing Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy in Rio. Collectively, they are the top-four ranked golfers on the planet.
Vijay Singh, who is a former world No. 1, has also opted to skip the Olympics over Zika concerns.
1. Steph Curry, Basketball, USA
Even prior to his Golden State Warriors falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, back-to-back league MVP, Steph Curry, announced his plans to skip the Rio Olympic Games.
“After a great deal of internal thought and several discussions with my family, the Warriors and my representatives, I’ve elected to withdraw my name from the list of eligible players on Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil,” Curry said in a June statement (via USA Today). “I recently informed [USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo] of this decision.”
Curry, who had won gold medals in the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cups, has never competed at the Olympic level. And while he feels his experience as part of Team USA has been “incredibly rewarding,” he cites injuries and “other factors” as the reason he wouldn’t re-join the team in Rio.
Curry suffered a Grade 1 MCL strain against the Houston Rockets in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but missed only limited time. However, after a strenuous season, he ultimately decided it was best to simply take a break, heal up and not risk anything else by traveling to Brazil.
In addition to Curry, other superstar players skipping the Olympic games include LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, James Harden and Chris Paul.
Despite all those players missing from the roster, Team USA is still considered heavy favorites going into the Olympics.