Some sports stars have decided to sit out of the Games and stay away from Brazil. Blame the Zika virus, scheduling concerns, injuries and being just plain tired.
Matthew Jussim 1 / 17
Stephen Curry, Basketball
The two-time reigning NBA MVP is taking some time to recover from injuries he dealt with in the playoffs. Curry suffered ankle and knee injuries while helping lead the Golden State Warriors to the NBA finals, but after losing in historic fashion after going up 3-1 on the Cleveland Cavaliers, the point guard will stay home from Rio.
"My previous experiences with USA Basketball have been incredibly rewarding, educational and enjoyable, which made this an extremely difficult decision for me and my family,” said Curry in a statement. “However, due to several factors—including recent ankle and knee injuries—I believe this is the best decision for me at this stage of my career. It's an incredible honor to represent your country and wear 'USA' on your chest, but my primary basketball-related objective this summer needs to focus on my body and getting ready for the 2016-17 NBA season."
Rory McIlroy, Golf
Golf is making a much-anticipated return to the Olympics in Rio after an absence of over 100 years, but some high-profile players are staying home, including the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland. McIlroy cited fears about the Zika virus in Brazil as his reasoning for dropping out of the Summer Games.
"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.”
LeBron James, Basketball
“The King” brought a championship to the city of Cleveland for the first time since 1964 by giving one of the most herculean efforts in NBA finals history. James averaged nearly a triple double with 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game to help the Cavaliers upset the Golden State Warriors. And sure, he's already done quite a bit with USA Basketball—he won a bronze medal in 2004 and gold medals in 2008 and 2012 while competing in the Olympics—but after six straight trips to the NBA finals, the 31-year-old star from Akron says he needs a break.
The American golf star said the decision to sit out of Rio was a difficult one, but that the health risks outweighed competing for the United States. Spieth said to the media that the Zika virus was not his only concern—he added that his overall health is also a reason—but added that he hopes to compete in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
“This was harder than trying to decide what university to go to—whether to turn professional and leave school. This was something I very much struggled with,” Spieth said about his decision. “I bounced back and forth with it, and ultimately a decision had to be made, and so I made it.”
Dustin Johnson, Golf
While many athletes have opted to not go to Rio over various concerns, no sport has been hit harder than golf. 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson joined the long list of players in the sport not attending, citing the Zika virus as his main reason. The American golfer has been putting together the most consistent performance of his career on the PGA Tour this season, finishing in the top 10 of tournaments 10 times through June 2016. Johnson said he felt the decision was best for his family—fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, and his 18-month-old son, Tatum.
"This was not an easy decision for me," Johnson said in a statement. "But my concerns about the Zika virus cannot be ignored.I feel it would be irresponsible to put myself, her or our family at risk.”
Jason Day, Golf
The No. 1-ranked golfer in the world will not take part in the Rio Olympics, either. The 28-year-old Australian cited the Zika virus as the main reason why he is sitting out. Day has established himself as one of the rising stars in golf after winning his first major at the 2015 P.G.A. Championship.
“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,” Day said in a statement.
Tejay van Garderen, Cycling
The 2012 United States cycling Olympic team member was one of the first American athletes to drop out of Rio, citing the Zika virus as his main issue with participating. Van Garderen likely would have competed in the mountain biking road race for the United States, but instead he'll stay home—his wife is pregnant and the 27-year-old didn't want to even chance introducing the disease to his family.
"I don't want to risk bringing anything back that could potentially have an effect," van Garderen said in an email to The Associated Press. "If the 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 I'm completely comfortable with."
Lionel Messi, Soccer
The Barcelona star played for Argentina during the Copa América tournament this summer, basically taking himself out of the running for the Rio Olympics. Messi has been plenty busy this summer anyway—he led Argentina to the Copa final before losing to Chile for the second straight year—and the superstar was also convicted of tax fraud in Spain.
Vijay Singh, Golf
The three-time major winner will not be representing Fiji in the Olympics in 2016—and the Zika virus is the main reason why. Singh also cited the PGA Tour schedule as a concern.
“I would like to play the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know... ” Singh said about his decision. “I feel bad, I wanted to play and finally decided against it. It’s in the middle of the Tour over here and I’m trying to figure out my game.”
Russell Westbrook, Basketball
The Oklahoma City Thunder star was one of many All-Star American basketball players to take his name out of consideration for the Rio Olympics. (James Harden, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Anthony Davis are also not playing for Team USA.) While Westbrook was not specific in his reasoning for dropping out, it’s likely a combination of playing a long season—OKC made it to the Western Conference finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs—and emotional withdrawal from Kevin Durant leaving his team to sign with those same Warriors.
“After speaking with my family, I have decided to not participate in this year's Olympics,” Westbrook said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision, as representing my country at the World Championships in 2010 and the Olympics in 2012 were career highlights for me. I look forward to future opportunities as a member of USA Basketball.“
John Isner, Tennis
Serena Williams will be in Rio to defend her gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics, but the top-ranked American man will not be travelling to Brazil for the Summer Games. Isner—who previously made it to the quarterfinals of the tennis competition in London—cited his schedule and “logistics” as the main reasons why he will not be participating.
The Real Madrid star led Portugal to a victory in the 2016 European Championships to help the nation earn its first major international trophy. Ronaldo was fantastic during the tournament, and even though he was injured during the final, he made his presence felt with an "unbelievable" halftime speech, according to teammate Cedric Soares. Ronaldo was not named to the Olympic roster due to his participation in Euro 2016, and if he did play in Rio, it could mean missing the start of the La Liga season.
American gymnastics star John Orozco will not be heading to Rio this summer after suffering tears in the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus of his left knee. The 23-year-old has dealt with injuries in the past—including to the same knee—and that will keep him from competing in the Summer Olympics. Orozco previously suffered an Achilles tear that kept him from competing in the world championships in 2015. The Bronx, New York native made the Olympic team for the second time in his career and was likely going to compete in the pommel horse, high bar and, parallel bars. Orozco spoke with us about his past injuries and how positive thinking has kept him motivated while competing.
Milos Raonic, Tennis
The Canadian tennis star made his first major final at Wimbledon in 2016, but he won’t use that momentum to compete in Rio for the Olympics. Raonic, ranked seventh in the world, cited the Zika virus as the main reason why he’s not planning to head to Brazil for the Summer Games.
“I am making this decision for a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around the Zika virus,” Raonic said in a statement.
Simona Halep, Tennis
The 24-year-old will not represent Romania in tennis in Rio after pulling out of the Summer Olympics over concerns about the Zika virus. Halep is fifth in the WTA rankings and won the Bucharest Open in mid-July in front of her home nation’s fans. Halep previously made it to the finals of Wimbledon in 2014 and now she will sit out of the Games in Brazil.
“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,” Halep posted on Facebook.
Alexandr Dolgopolov, Tennis
The Ukrainian tennis player is sitting out of Rio over concerns about the Zika virus. Dolgopolov also mentioned that he has other medical issues to think about, as he has Gilbert’s syndrome, which is a liver condition, according to the New York Times.
Tomáš Berdych, Tennis
The Czech tennis star is coming off of a semifinal run at Wimbledon in 2016, but he won’t be taking that momentum down to Brazil for the Rio Olympics. Berdych cited the Zika virus as his primary reason for skipping out, saying that he is thinking about his long-term career over the risk of getting sick in Rio. The 30-year-old said that he will consider playing in the 2020 Olympics.
“Obviously, I’ve known about the virus a long time, since when it all started,” Berdych said, according to the New York Times. “But of course the season was going on. I’m going to play two, three, four years, and then the rest of my life will be another 60 years, something like that. If something happens that makes that not the way you want it, because of one week or one tournament, you might have a sad life. No, I don’t think so; I don’t want to take that risk, even if the risks are possibly small or whatever.”