Deaf, blind Paralympian quit Team USA over limits on personal care assistants

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – JUNE 19: Becca Meyers of the United States competes in the 200m Individual Medley finals during day 3 of the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on June 19, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A deaf and blind Paralympian quit Team USA after she was not allowed to bring her own personal care assistant to Tokyo.

Swimmer Becca Meyers quit Team USA five weeks before the Olympics are set to begin, as she was not allowed to take her mother as her personal care assistant due to pandemic rules that cap the number of people allowed at the Games, The Washington Post reported.

“I would love to go to Tokyo,” the 26-year-old told the outlet. “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.”

Meyers has Usher syndrome, which caused her to be deaf her whole life and slowly lose her eyesight as well. She has had her mother, Maria Meyers, accompany her for support.

However, the two were told that due to the limited number of people allowed at the games, there would be one personal care assistant for the entire team, and individual assistants were not allowed. 

“There remain no exceptions to late additions to our delegation list other than the athletes and essential operational personnel per the organizing committee and the government of Japan,” Rick Adams, chief of sport performance and national governing body services for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), told Becca Meyers’s father in an email in June that was given to the Post.

However, the Meyerses believe the team wouldn’t allow her a personal care assistant because if they did, everyone on the team would have to be allowed one. There is currently only one personal care assistant for the team of 34, along with six coaches.

“We contacted the Maryland secretary of state. We had somebody contact the Japanese government, the ambassador — they all say it’s not the government [and] it’s not the organizing committee. It’s the USOPC that’s blocking this,” Mark Meyers, Becca Meyers’s father, said.  “They can ask for more [official credentials]. … They just did not plan for her. 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.”

Meyers is the only swimmer on her team who is blind and deaf. Her family says each athlete should be given a personal care assistant, as essential personnel designations have been extended for other sports such as caddies for golf.

The USOPC is maintaining the claim that they are not allowed to add anyone due to the pandemic restrictions.

“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,” USOPC said in a statement to the Post.

“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,” it continued. “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 has previously won gold and silver medals for the United States at past Olympic Games. 

The Hill has reached out to USOPC for comment.

Tags 2021 Olympics Paralympic Games Tokyo Olympics United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee

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