Three-time Paralympic gold medalist, Becca Meyers, is no longer heading to Tokyo after the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) supposedly denied her essential accommodation for her disability, Meyers said Tuesday.
The 26-year-old swimmer was born with Usher Syndrome, a genetic condition that is often characterized by partial or total hearing and vision loss that worsens over time. According to her Team USA profile, Meyers was born deaf and has used a cochlear implant to assist her hearing since she was young.
Meyers petitioned to bring her mother to the games to serve as her Personal Care Assistant (PCA) at the games, and says her request was denied due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’ve had to make the gut-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics,” Meyers wrote in a statement on Twitter. “I’m angry, I’m disappointed, but most of all, I’m sad to not be representing my country.”
Meyer’s mother acted as her PCA at all her international swim meets since 2017, but the USOPC refused her request for her mother to serve in that capacity in Tokyo, CNN reported.
The statement said the USOPC “repeatedly” told the swimmer did not need a separate PCA considering there will be one provided to the athletes.
However, Meyers said the Committee is sending one PCA for all 33 Paralympic swimmers, nine of which are visually impaired, to Tokyo.
“There are eight remaining visually impaired athletes competing on the swim team alone, yet not one person on the swim staff is specifically certified to work with blind or visually impaired athletes,” Meyers wrote in an op-ed in USA Today.
“How could I possibly set foot in a foreign city, with the numerous restrictions and barriers that COVID-19 has put up, and expect to feel safe for two weeks? How can any of us?” She said.
Heartbroken to share that I’m withdrawing from the Tokyo Paralympic Games. The USOPC has repeatedly denied my reasonable and essential accommodation because of my disability, leaving me no choice. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/p9tKsbPip2
— Becca Meyers (@becca_meyers) July 20, 2021
Meyers is a star in the pool, having reached the podium six times in the past two Paralympic games. At the 2016 Rio Games, she took home three gold medals in the 100-meter fly, 200-meter individual medley and 400-meter freestyle.
While the athlete was expected to find similar successes in Tokyo, Meyers felt she needed to take this opportunity to advocate for other disabled athletes. (RELATED: Paralympian Olivia Breen Reacts To Being Told Her Sprint Briefs Are Unacceptable)
“I need to speak up for the next athlete who is deaf-blind or disabled in another way,” she wrote in the op-ed. “As Paralympians, we train as hard as our counterparts, the Olympians. We deserve the same quality and safety nets that our able-bodied teammates will receive in just a few days’ time.”
USOPC is “heartbroken” for athletes like Meyers, who needed to decline nominations to Team USA due to accommodations, according to The Washington Post.
“But our top priority is ensuring the safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and the citizens of the host country,” USOPC said in a statement to the Post.
The committee claims they are facing “unprecedented restrictions” on how to move forward with accommodations in Tokyo.
“As it’s been widely reported, [the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games], at the direction of the government of Japan, is not permitting any personnel other than operational essential staff with roles related to the overall execution of the games, into the country,” USOPC said.
The Meyers family is not buying it, according to the Post, who said the family anticipated this outcome for months and entertained many potential solutions.
“They can ask for more [official credentials]. … They just did not plan for her,” Becca’s father Mark said to the Post. “They knew about this [issue] in February. They said, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you.’ They’ve had time to fix this, if they asked the right people. They’ve chosen not to.”
The Paralympic Games will kick off on Aug. 24 and run through Sept. 5.