Rory McIlroy Withdraws From 2016 Olympic Games

Rory McIlroy.

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
August / September 2016

Rory McIlroy, who was chosen to represent Ireland in Brazil’s 2016 Olympic games, announced in July that he would not be competing. The Northern Irish golfer issued an official statement, explaining that his concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus were behind this change of heart.

The virus has been speculated to result in extreme birth defects when passed from mother to infant. In his official statement, McIlroy expressed that by withdrawing from the Rio de Janeiro games, he was prioritizing the health of his family. He wrote, “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.”

Jason Sobel of ESPN, however, has levelled accusations of disingenuity at the would-be competitor. He called the Zika virus “the perfect get-out-of-jail-free-card for professional golfers” and claimed that many of the multimillionaire athletes were disinclined to take part in the Olympic games due to the lack of prize money being offered. Sobel claimed that golfers’ use of Zika as an “all-purpose excuse” unfairly restricted attention given to those who remain committed to competing in the Olympics.

McIlroy is among many golfers to cite Zika fears as a reason for opting out of this year’s Olympics. Other top-ranking players who have chosen not to represent their nations include Australian Jason Day, Fijian Vijay Singh, and America’s Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. ♦

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