Deaf, blind swimmer quits Team USA because she can't bring assistant to Paralympics

July 20 (UPI) -- Becca Meyers, a deaf and blind swimmer, won't compete for Team USA in the Paralympic Games because she was told she can't bring her mother and personal care assistant to Tokyo.

Meyers announced her withdrawal from the Paralympic Games on Tuesday on social media. She told the Washington Post on Monday that she sent an email to inform the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee the day before that she won't compete in Tokyo.


"I've had to make the gut-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics," Meyers wrote Tuesday on Twitter and Instagram.

"I'm angry, I'm disappointed, but most of all, I'm sad to not be representing my country."

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Meyers, 26, was born with Usher syndrome. The rare genetic disorder left her deaf at birth and later led to her lost vision.

Meyers told the Post that the lack of an assistant at the 2016 Paralympic Games led her to stop eating because she couldn't find the athletes' dining area in Rio de Janeiro.

She said her mother, Maria Meyers, has traveled with her to competitions as a personal care assistant since being granted permission by the USOPC in 2017.

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In a statement to the Post, the USOPC said other athletes for the Paralympic and Olympic Games have advised them that they will not accept a nomination to Team USA due to increased restrictions in Tokyo.

"We are dealing with unprecedented restrictions around what is possible on the ground in Tokyo," the USOPC said.

"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.

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"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."

Meyers won three gold medals and a silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics Games. She won a silver and bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.


In 2018, Meyers won five gold medals at the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Australia. She won another four gold medals in 2019 at the World Para Swimming Championships in London.

"The USOPC has denied a reasonable and essential accommodation for me, as a deaf-blind athlete, to be able to compete in Tokyo, telling me repeatedly that I do not need a personal care assistant 'who I trust' because there will be a single PCA on staff that is available to assist me and 33 other Paralympic swimmers, nine of whom are visually impaired," Meyers wrote on social media.

Meyers said she agreed with Tokyo officials' new safety measures and limits on non-essential staff -- put into place due to COVID-19 -- but a "trusted PCA is essential" for her to compete.

"So, in 2021, why as a disabled person am I still fighting for my rights?" Meyers wrote. "I'm speaking up for future generations of Paralympic athletes in hope that they never have to experience the pain I've been through. Enough is enough."

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Simone Biles stands on the floor after winning the gold medal in the floor exercise at the Olympic Arena of the Rio Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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