Golfer Rory McIlroy announced on Wednesday that he has decided not to compete in the Rio Olympics in August.
McIlroy was set to head to Rio with Team Ireland for the first Olympics to include the sport of golf after a 112-year absence. The Northern Ireland native said in a statement that concerns about the Zika virus brought him to the decision.
“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realize that my health, and my family’s health, comes before anything else,” he said. “Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.”
International golfers Marc Leishman, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott and others have also said they will not be going to Rio due to the mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects.
“I trust the Irish people will understand my decision,” McIlroy said in the statement. “The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me. I will continue to endeavor to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it.”
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The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) responded following McIlroy’s statement, expressing its disappointment.
“Rory was set to be one of the big stars of Rio 2016, but now there is an opportunity for another Irish golfer to take up the chance to become an Olympian and participate in golf’s historic return to the Olympic Games,” the OCI said.
Meanwhile, McIlroy had faced a conflict of sponsorships earlier this year. The Nike-sponsored athlete, who reportedly has a 10-year, $100-million deal with the Beaverton, Ore.-based athletic brand, would have to wear New Balance gear in Rio alongside the rest of Team Ireland, which is being sponsored by the Boston-based brand.