July 22, 2021 — U.S. Paralympian Becca Meyers, a three-time gold medal swimmer who is deaf and blind, announced this week that she’s dropping out of the Tokyo Games.
Meyers said she made the decision because the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee denied her request to bring her personal care assistant to Japan. A staff personal care assistant will be available to help, she added, but will be on call for the full U.S. Paralympic swim team with 34 athletes, including nine other visually impaired athletes. Meyers is the only one who is also deaf.
“I’m angry, I’m disappointed, but most of all, I’m sad to not be representing my country,” she wrote on Instagram.
Meyers wrote that the committee has allowed her to bring a personal care assistant — her mother — to international meets since 2017. With COVID-19 safety measures and limits to non-essential staff in Tokyo, however, a personal care assistant isn’t allowed. She acknowledged the pandemic protocols but added that “a trusted PCA is essential for me to compete.”
“So, in 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights?” she wrote. “I’m speaking up for future generations of Paralympic athletes in hope that they never have to experience the pain I’ve been through. Enough is enough.”
In a statement to The Washington Post, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it is working under “unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground in Tokyo.” Most events are being held without spectators, and there are major limitations to “foreign delegations,” including personal care assistants.
“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 committee wrote.
“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,” the committee wrote. “But our top priority is ensuring the safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and the citizens of the host country.”
Meyers, 26, was born with Usher syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that affects both hearing and vision, according to CBS News. As a two-time Paralympian, she has won three gold medals and multiple world championships. She was scheduled to compete in four events in Tokyo.
“The Paralympic Games are supposed to be a haven for athletes with disabilities,” Meyers wrote in a column for USA Today after her announcement.
“How could I possibly set foot in a foreign city, with numerous restrictions and barriers that COVID-19 has put up, and expect to feel safe for two weeks?” she wrote. “How can any of us?”