Deaf and blind swimmer quits US Olympic team after assistant barred from traveling to Tokyo

Deaf and blind swimmer quits US Olympic team after assistant barred from traveling to Tokyo

A deaf and blind Paralympic swimmer quit Team USA on Sunday ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after officials barred her mother, who also serves as her caretaker, from traveling to Japan with her.

Becca Meyers, who won three gold medals and a silver during the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, has informed the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee that she would not be attending the events, she and her family told the Washington Post. Meyers was born with Usher syndrome, a rare condition that left her deaf at birth and progressively removed her sight over time.

“I would love to go to Tokyo,” the 26-year-old said. “Swimming has given me my identity as a person. I’ve always been Becca the Swimmer Girl. I haven’t taken this lightly. This has been very difficult for me. [But] I need to say something to effect change, because this can’t go on any longer.”

The athlete requires a personal care assistant, a role assumed by her mother, Maria. On June 29, USOPC officials said accommodation would no longer be viable due to stringent COVID-19 measures adopted by Tokyo commissioners.


“There remain no exceptions to late additions to our delegation list other than the athletes and essential operational personnel per the organizing committee and the government of Japan,” Rick Adams, chief of sport performance and national governing body services for the USOPC, told Becca's father, Mark. “As I said to you both on the phone and over email, I fully empathize with your concerns and wish we could fine [sic] a way as we have in the past.”

The June correspondence predated a July 8 decision from Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto to ban spectators moments after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga put the country on alert over the delta COVID-19 strain. The games are set to begin on July 23, though the Paralympic division will start on Aug. 24.

Questions have since been raised regarding who made the call to ban Becca Meyer's mother from attendance, as Mark Meyers indicated USOPC was responsible, not the Japanese government or Olympic organizers.

“We contacted the Maryland secretary of state. We had somebody contact the Japanese government, the ambassador — they all say it’s not the government [and] it’s not the organizing committee. It’s the USOPC that’s blocking this,” he said. “They can ask for more [credentials]. … They just did not plan for her. They knew about this [issue] in February. They said, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you.’ They’ve had time to fix this, if they asked the right people. They’ve chosen not to.”

The USOPC has insisted that the top brass in Japan are responsible for the ban after they forbade nonessential personnel from attendance.

"We are dealing with unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground in Tokyo," a spokesperson for the organization said. "As it’s been widely reported, [the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games], at the direction of the government of Japan, is not permitting any personnel other than operational essential staff with roles related to the overall execution of the games, into the country."


“This position has resulted in some athletes advising us that they will not accept a nomination to Team USA for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games," the statement added. "We are heartbroken for athletes needing to make agonizing decisions about whether to compete if they are unable to have their typical support resources at a major international competition, but our top priority is ensuring the safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and the citizens of the host country.”

The USOPC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner.

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Tags: News, Tokyo, Olympics, 2020 Olympics, Sports, Japan, Coronavirus

Original Author: Jake Dima

Original Location: Deaf and blind swimmer quits US Olympic team after assistant barred from traveling to Tokyo