Saturday 10 December 2016

Sonia O'Sullivan hits out at golf's Olympic dropouts

Ryan Nugent

Published 06/07/2016 | 07:19

Sonia O’Sullivan is pictured at St. Stephen’s Green Park for the launch of the new Always #LikeAGirl Keep Playing campaign in Ireland.
Sonia O’Sullivan is pictured at St. Stephen’s Green Park for the launch of the new Always #LikeAGirl Keep Playing campaign in Ireland.
Sonia O’Sullivan is pictured at St. Stephen’s Green Park for the launch of the new Always #LikeAGirl Keep Playing campaign in Ireland. Pictured with Sonia is 13 year old Anna Thompson and 12 year old Lucy Madden from Dublin.

Olympic legend Sonia O’Sullivan has hit out at Irish golfers who are refusing to compete in the Rio Games because of fears over the Zika virus.

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The Cobh athlete insisted that Brazil is safe and they are using the virus “as an excuse”.

Sonia O’Sullivan is pictured at St. Stephen’s Green Park for the launch of the new Always #LikeAGirl Keep Playing campaign in Ireland. Pictured with Sonia is 13 year old Anna Thompson and 12 year old Lucy Madden from Dublin.
Sonia O’Sullivan is pictured at St. Stephen’s Green Park for the launch of the new Always #LikeAGirl Keep Playing campaign in Ireland. Pictured with Sonia is 13 year old Anna Thompson and 12 year old Lucy Madden from Dublin.

Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell have pulled out of representing Ireland, citing fears that the virus could harm their unborn children should they decide to have families.

O’Sullivan, who won a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, said a similar virus threat in Australia would not have kept her away.

She said that the safety precautions taken by the Olympic Council means there is “nothing to fear” for athletes.

“If this was in Sydney and there was Zika down there, would I have gone? I definitely would have gone,” she said.

“I work closely with the Olympic Council of Ireland and the doctors there have done all the research and studies and they’ve prepared the athletes as best they can.”

The former world champion expects the three golfers to compete in future Olympics, but thinks they simply don’t feel this is the right time for them.

“It’s an excuse, I suppose, to use Zika as a reason not to go to the Olympics,” she said.

“I think there are a lot of other reasons why they’re not going, but it’s easy to say that it’s Zika. Golf wasn’t in the Olympics until this year. It wasn’t part of their lifestyle and they have things that are way more important than the Olympics.

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“So why should all of a sudden this be imposed on them as being the most important thing when it’s not?”

Former Ireland rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll said he understands why Irish golfers have pulled out of Rio, where the risk from the mosquito-borne Zika virus is considered high.

“Obviously, all of those individuals have thought long and hard about it,” the 37-year-old said. “In a huge number of sports people’s cases, they’re just married, getting married, looking at having children.

“If they feel – and if they’ve taken medical advice – that it’s not a smart thing for them to go, you’ve got to respect their decision.

“You’ve got to respect it, be it because of the Zika virus, be it because of potential security issues, be it because maybe some don’t think it fits into their schedule the way everyone else sees it, or because it’s not the ultimate in a golfer’s career,” he added.

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