Hope Solo has said that she will consider skipping the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil over the Zika virus outbreak, even before the U.S. women’s national team has secured a berth. Her coach and teammate, however, are exercising a little more caution about the increased threat of the mosquito-borne virus that is growing rampant in Brazil and spreding throughout the rest of the world.
"We’re focused on qualifying, so we don’t really don’t have Rio in our sights yet until the end of this month, hopefully. But Zika virus is a very scary thing that is very unknown for a lot of people, especially on the side of pregnant women and women who might want to get pregnant in the years following the Olympics," Alex Morgan said.
Morgan said she had not spoken to Solo about the statement the U.S. goalkeeper made to SI.com’s Grant Wahl. Solo said she is worried enough about potential reproductive health issues that, if she had to choose now, she would not play in Rio.
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Those statements came ahead of a U.S. Soccer medical staff briefing with the U.S. women’s national soccer team players on Tuesday night. Morgan and coach Jill Ellis agreed that the Zika virus is of concern.
"We’re certainly sensitive to the fact that this has become a global issue, and we’re sensitive to the fact that a lot of people have been impacted by this. I think right now we’ll keep our focus on the game and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it," Ellis said.
The U.S. women are set to kick off their qualifying effort in Texas, where they play Costa Rica Wednesday evening in the first of three Group matches at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The U.S. will also face Mexico and Puerto Rico, and are expected to advance to the semifinals on Feb. 19 and the finals on Feb. 21. The top two finishers in the tournament will secure berths to the Olympics.
Assuming the U.S. does qualify as expected, the Zika virus threat will become a real concern. The virus is said to be linked to growing incidences of microcephaly, a congentinal brain deformity, in infants born in Zika hot zones.
"If I had to make the choice today, I wouldn’t go [to the Olympics]," Solo told SI.com on Monday. She added: "Competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike. Female athletes should not be forced to make a decision that could sacrifice the health of a child."
Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said his team has not thought once about Zika virus and would not unless they qualify. However, Cuellar urged caution, saying that the World Health Organization and other medical teams can work fast on global epidemics. Cuellar said he believes there’s a good chance the outbreak could be contained and the medicines to treat the virus may be produced well ahead of the August Olympics.