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Three-time Gold Medalist Becca Meyers was expected to compete for up to four medals in Tokyo this year.
Instead, the six-time Paralympic medalist with three golds from the 2016 Rio Games won’t be attending.
In a statement posted to her social media, the 26-year-old deaf-blind swimmer said she was told she couldn’t bring her mother and personal care assistant Maria Meyers to help her navigate Tokyo and the Olympic facilities.
Meyers said she then informed Team USA that she was quitting the team.
“Heartbroken to share that I’m withdrawing from the Tokyo Paralympic Games,” she wrote in the tweet sharing the statement. “The USOPC has repeatedly denied my reasonable and essential accommodation because of my disability, leaving me no choice…”
The Washington Post reports that Meyers suffers from Usher syndrome, a genetic disorder that left her deaf at birth.
The disorder has progressively eroded her eyesight, and while her vision isn’t completely gone, it’s been recently downgraded from the least-impaired Paralympic classification of S13 to the middle class of S12, the Post reports. Paralympians designated as S11 are completely blind or close to it, and the article states Meyers was the only one of 34 swimmers on the U.S. Paralympic teams who is both deaf and blind.
“I would love to go to Tokyo,” Meyers told The Post, which first reported her withdrawal. “Swimming has given me my identity as a person. I’ve always been Becca the Swimmer Girl. I haven’t taken this lightly. This has been very difficult for me. [But] I need to say something to effect change, because this can’t go on any longer.”
The USOPC said in a statement to The Post that restrictions put in place by organizers and the Japanese government are the reason Meyers is not allowed to bring a PCA to Tokyo.
“We are dealing with unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground 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.
“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. 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, but our top priority is ensuring the safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and the citizens of the host country.”
In her statement posted on Twitter, Meyers said USPOC told her she doesn’t need a personal care assistant of her own, despite having the same accommodations at previous Olympics.
The USOPC also said it will provide one PCA for the 34-member Paralympic swim team and that the team’s six coaches will also be available to assist with personal needs.
Meyers’ decision likely means that her Paralympic career is over after competing as one of the sport’s most celebrated and decorated athletes from the London and Rio Games, The Post reports.
“This is the Paralympics,” Becca Meyers told The Post. “We should be celebrating everyone’s disabilities. We’ve broken barriers in society, defying all odds. And yet this is how we’re treated? Like a burden on the team?”