New York: The Rio Olympics may be the pinnacle of sporting glory but some of the world’s top sportspersons could well be conspicuous by their absence.
Argentina football superstar Lionel Messi (left), American basketball hero LeBron James and Aussie golfer Jason Day. PICS/AFP, GETTY IMAges
A few days after former golf World No 1 Rory McIlroy announced that he would be giving the Games a miss due to concerns of the Zika virus, it has been reported that three more prominent stars — World No 1 golfer Jason Day, Argentina football superstar Lionel Messi and American basketball hero LeBron James — could be missing from the quadrennial event
Day said yesterday that he was undecided about whether or not he will compete at the Rio Olympics as he too was worried about the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus which has been linked to birth defects. “I’ll talk to Bud (his agent Bud Martin) and family members because family for me is priority number one, so I want to make sure that they are happy and then from there I’ll make a decision.
It’s a life decision that you have to make: Jason Day
It’s a tough one, going from trying to represent your country and trying to win a gold medal but also understanding it’s a life decision you have to make,” Day (28) said at a promotional event ahead of defending his first major title at next month’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol, New Jersey. Golf makes its return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence.
Meanwhile, Argentina football coach Gerardo Martino yesterday named part of his squad for the Rio Olympics, but superstar Messi (29) was not included after being chosen for the Copa America instead.
The full list of 22 will be revealed in the coming days but not before Sunday’s final of the Copa, where Argentina take on holders Chile. Messi’s exclusion was expected. He won gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but Martino had already decided that the Barcelona star would not compete at both the Copa and the Olympics in August.
NBA champion LeBron (31) is also unlikely to represent USA at the Games. A flurry of reports ahead of next week’s announcement of the final US roster for Brazil was topped when Cleveland.com said James has told USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski that he will not play in August. “I could use the rest,” James told the
James, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the greatest-ever NBA Finals comeback to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, cited the grind of having logged so much court time through six consecutive trips to the finals. Other prominent US basketball stars to skip Rio are NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring leader Stephen Curry of Golden State, star guards Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and James Harden of Houston among others. The series of pullouts brings back memories of 2004, when security worries were a concern in the Athens run-up and many top names withdrew.