Calling in Zika from Rio | Inquirer Sports

Calling in Zika from Rio

THE ZIKA virus borne by tiny mosquitoes is taking its toll on the giants of basketball and golf, two made-for-TV games of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics starting on Aug. 5.

NBA Finals MVP LeBron James and league MVP and scoring leader Stephen Curry head an All-Star cast of talent that will not play for Team USA, the reigning Summer Games basketball champion.

Both are feigning fatigue from the playoffs and the Finals series, but are likely skipping Olympic duty due to the Zika threat hovering over Brazil. James led the Cleveland Cavaliers over Curry and the Golden State Warriors in one of the greatest-ever NBA championships at Oakland’s Oracle Arena recently.

Also opting out of Team USA with Zika certainly in mind are Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, James Harden of Houston, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge of San Antonio, John Wall of Washington, Anthony Davis of New Orleans, Damian Lillard of Portland and Gordon Hayward of Utah.


Although most of the players that NBA fans worldwide would want to see play in Brazil are out, the Americans remain the heavy favorites in Rio. They are led by Carmelo Anthony of New York and OKC’s Kevin Durant, both downplaying the Zika threat.

This does does not make the job of competitors, including the Gilas Pilipinas team—should it defy the odds, any easier.

Meantime, Filipino-Australian Jason Day, golf’s No. 1 player and No. 4 Rory McIlroy of Ireland, have also dropped out of Brazil. Following suit in rapid-fire fashion were Marc Leishman of Australia, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Shane Lowry of Ireland, who tied for second at the US Open, and veteran Vijay Singh of Fiji.

All are citing Zika, although their real reason may be the proximity of two PGA Tour Majors—the British Open on July 10 and the PGA Championship on July 25. The Olympic golf tournament starts two weeks later.


Golf will be an Olympic sport for the first time in 102 years but, without the marquee names, could lose the appeal to attract new players through the TV exposure in Rio.

“Zika is an avatar for a combination of reasons players aren’t interested in going to Rio,” according to writer Matthew Rudy of Golf Digest. “It’s the hassle of going down there. The crammed schedule. The drug testing. The second-class status of a medal compared to a Major.”


On the brighter side, golf’s pickle could be a bonus to Filipino golfers Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que, 36th and 53th respectively in the current Olympic rankings. Only the top 60 golfers in the list will compete in Rio.
If the superstars continue to drop like flies, Que will have a better chance of qualifying and both Pinoys will have enhanced opportunities for medaling.

* * *

Two sports hands, basketball legend Ramon Fernandez and long-time Davao sportswriter Charles Maxey, are among the new commissioners of the Philippine Sports Commission.

Fernandez, whose anthem is to bring sports where it is needed, has submitted a position paper to PSC chair Butch Ramirez. Maxey considers his closeness to the Chair as a positive for his job.

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More on the two in a succeeding column.

TAGS: players, Rio, TV, Zika

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