Why Are Big-Name Athletes Passing Up On Olympic Competition?
By: Evan Fraser
If there was ever a doubt that the 2020 Summer Olympics would be cancelled again for the second consecutive year due to complications with the global pandemic, those thoughts can officially be washed away. The Summer Games are set to begin on July 23rd and athletes from all over the world are preparing for the trip out to Tokyo, Japan within the coming weeks.
The Olympics, Summer or Winter, are amongst the most important and viewed sporting events of all time. Considering the duration between one Summer Olympics to the next is four years (or in this year’s case, 5 years due to COVID-19) athletes and fans worldwide have been anxiously preparing and waiting for the 2020 Summer Games to begin. It is sports like Track & Field, Volleyball and Gymnastics that thrive off of the fruits of Olympic competition. Athletes that participate in such sports need the Games to display their skills at the highest level. However, it is athletes amongst other sports like Basketball, Tennis or even Golf that could almost view competition at the Olympics as a hindrance on their professional careers.
Notable tennis stars Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Dennis Shapovalov and Dominic Thiem have all decided against making Olympic appearances for various reasons. Serena Williams says she made her decision based on many reasons. She indicated that she does not believe she would even be on the Olympic radar based on recent performances but regardless, it is believed the 4-time Gold medalist would be there if she wanted to be. With the complications that COVID-19 has provided, along with the importance of being around her little girl, it is obvious that Serena does not want to risk her health and be away from her family for a long period of time to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games.
As for the three male top 15 ranked tennis players in the world that have opted out of the Olympic Games (Nadal #3, Thiem #5, Shapovalov #12), the reasoning all seems to be health or personal related based on their own personal goals. Rafael Nadal made the decision to prolong his career to look after his body and health. Canadian Dennis Shapovalov and team made the call to prevent any health related issues related to COVID-19. Finally, Dominic Thiem decided that it was in his best interest to pass on the Games in preparation to defend his recent U.S. Open title.
Recently, USA Men’s Basketball announced their roster for the upcoming Summer Olympics and it is packed with NBA All-Star talent. Unlike any other nation, the U.S. program has the luxury of selecting their entire squad amongst players that play on the world’s highest level. However, almost similar to other high-level, highly paid athletes like the previously discussed tennis players, not all of USA’s best basketball players will be attending the games often due to what has been continually proclaimed as “personal reasons”.
You would be hard-pressed to see the World’s top 100 meter sprinter or gymnast pullout of an Olympic competition due to personal reasons. This is their opportunity to shine and compete against the highest level of talent from all over the world. Winning a Gold medal for some means more than any value of money but many believe that famous athletes are beginning to avoid Olympic competition in pursuit of higher paychecks amongst the leagues and competitions they participate in as part of their career. Famous athletes that compete in well-known North American leagues or on the highest level of tour competition, such as the ATP and WTA for tennis, may not see the benefit in attending the Olympics as their big salary earnings are made elsewhere. It is only a matter of time until we see if this holds true for future Olympic Games or if the unique circumstances surrounding the delay and pandemic caused it this year.