Spanish basketball star Pau Gasol has confirmed he will represent his country at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games despite initially admitting he was considering withdrawing from the event due to fears over the Zika virus.
Gasol, a two-time Olympic silver medalist and a six-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star, announced his decision in an article published in Spanish newspaper Marca.
It came after Jamaican sprinter Kemar Bailey-Cole, gold medalist in the 100 metres at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, has revealed he has contracted the virus.
The 24-year-old, also an Olympic and world 4x100m relay champion, still hopes to take part in Jamaica’s trials for Rio 2016, due to be held on Thursday.
“Recovering is not easy because, as we speak, the rashes are still on my body,” he told the Jamaica Gleaner.
“My eyes hurt, but the best thing is that I am not feeling any muscle pain at the moment.”
Gasol, who is now set to compete in his fourth Olympic Games in the Brazilian city, pressurised organisers into making sure athletes are kept safe during the Games and stressed that Zika remains a “serious issue”.
“My commitment to the national team is greater than my fears over what might happen,” Gasol wrote
“My feelings of passion and responsibility toward my national team, my sport and my teammates are huge.
“They have always been and always will be.
“My first instinct in that sense has always been to want to be with the national team each summer.”
A number of golfers have pulled out of the Olympics because of Zika, which has been linked with microcephaly – where babies are born with abnormally small heads, including world number four Rory McIlroy and South Africa’s Branden Grace.
Other competitors, such as Gasol and reigning Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, have openly expressed their concerns about the virus.
American cyclist Tejay Van Garderen has also withdrawn over fears he may contract the disease and pass it to his pregnant wife.
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz