Many of those in Rio have sounded off
But that hasn’t stopped the virus from being a topic of discussion in the lead-up to the games. Here’s what some of the top athletes competing in Rio have to say about Zika.
Hope Solo, 35, Soccer
The goalie first expressed her concerns in February 2016, even going as far as to say that the then-current climate involving Zika would impact her decision to compete. “If I had to make the choice today, I wouldn’t go [to the Olympics],” she said. “The Zika virus is definitely a concern to me. I’m obviously keeping an eye on what’s going on in the news. I do know that it’s spreading and they don’t really have a vaccination to treat it, so it’s definitely worrisome.”
Solo ended up going to Rio, but not without bringing along lots of protection. She tweeted as much:
Her tweets, however, didn’t go over so well with locals. During the opening soccer game of the Olympics, the crowds booed her with yells of “Zika!”
Gabby Douglas, 20, Gymnastics
The reigning all-around Olympic champion isn’t letting Zika get in the way of her second shot at gold. “I feel like there’s always going to be something, an obstacle or a hardship put in front of us,” she told PEOPLE. “As gymnasts we are so used to adapting and just really focusing on what we need to do at that time. And it’s the Olympics, it’s something so big I don’t think anything should stop you from achieving your goal.”
Nothing – including “stupid bugs.”
“It’s the Olympics,” the 20-year-old told the Associated Press. “Mosquitoes? Like, whatever. I’m going. This is my shot. I don’t care about no stupid bugs.”
Michael Phelps, 31, Swimming
The world’s most-decorated Olympian just welcomed his first child, son Boomer, with fiancée Nicole Johnson. So for him, Zika is a concern, but nothing that will keep him from his fifth games. “Do I feel like this is a real thing?” he said. “I do. Do I think it’s something I need to worry about? I don’t. It’s winter there when we get down there, so that will help. There’s always something during the Olympic Games that you hear a lot about in the media.
“I think there are precautions we have to take, and that’s part of any job,” he continued. “You always have to know what’s going on, especially traveling overseas. It is the Olympics, and the athletes will be taken care of. For me, it’s my job to make sure Nicole and Boomer and my family are taken care of.”
Allyson Felix, 30, Track & Field
Runner Felix told Sports Illustrated she is placing her trust in the International Olympic Committee to keep things safe for the competing athletes. “Whenever there’s a health concern, you want to be really informed about it,” she said. “But in this situation I think we have to rely on the committee and what they’ve told us, so as long as they think it’s safe for us, and if they’re allowing us to go over, I’m definitely going to be a part of that.”
Will Zika be on her mind on the track?
“I hope not,” she said. “I hope to be at peace at that point. I hope my mind is completely on competition and let the experts on those areas take over.”
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Serena Williams, 34, Tennis
Though Williams admits that in tennis, the most sought-after prize isn’t a gold medal, but a grand slam, she says the Olympics have always been a special experience for her – and she feels for those, such as golfer Jason Day, that are skipping out.
“I think it is sad,” she told USA Today. “But at the same time I obviously understand where they’re coming from and how they feel. Part of me feels that way, too, which is why I’m going in, you know, with a whole mindset of how do I protect myself, how do I prevent and also raise awareness for this. That’s kind of how I’m looking at it.”
Missy Franklin, 21, Swimming
Franklin dominated in London, and Zika isn’t about to stop her from doing the same in Rio. In fact, she admitted it doesn’t even really cross her mind in the buildup.
“We’re very aware of it but for us this is just one of those things that comes up that’s really out of our control,” Franklin said. “I just trust that the USOC and USA Swimming always prepares us for whatever we’re going to encounter and I trust they’ll do the same thing there. I’m honestly not thinking about it. I’m concentrating on training and that’s where my attention is right now.”
Justin Gatlin, 34, Track & Field
The veteran Olympian is going to Rio despite Zika concerns because, as he says, in track, this is the ultimate win. “We don’t get a chance to do a Final Four,” . “We don’t get a chance to do a Super Bowl. This is our championships. And if at that point in time, if Zika is not going to kill me, I’m going to be down there trying to accomplish my Olympic dreams. You just got to go out there and do what you have to do. If you focus on things that’s outside of your power, then you’re going to be distracted.”
Alysia Montano, 30, Track & Field
Montano knows what it’s like to race under unusual circumstances: in 2014, she competed in the U.S. Championships while she was eight months pregnant.
Now, as a mother, she says Zika is definitely something that’s on her mind going into Rio. “Having started my family and wanting to expand sometime in the future, it is of great concern,” she said. “I’m a mom now and worry sometimes rises to the top. I don’t think I can sit here and say I’m not going to go if it gets bad. I think you have to see how things play out, but it’s definitely a concern.”
Aly Raisman, 22, Gymnastics
Raisman said that as a gymnast, she doesn’t have much to worry about when it comes to Zika: she spends nearly all of her time indoors.
“We’re a sport that is inside, and we pretty much go to and from the gym,” she told the Boston Herald. “We eat, sleep and we train. That’s all we do. We don’t really go outside, so we’re lucky. But of course for the other athletes that are outside, they don’t really have that much information on it so obviously it is scary but I’m sure the USOC will do everything they can to help us out.”
Ryan Lochte, 32, Swimming
The superstar swimmer is putting his trust in Team USA officials when it comes to Zika concerns. “The USA team, they keep us in a tight, close quarter,” he said. “They’re always watching us, so it helps out so we don’t have to think about that kind of stuff. We can just go out there and do what we came to do and just race.”
Jenn Suhr, 34, Track & Field
The gold medalist pole-vaulter isn’t concerned with Zika – Why? “There is so much to worry about outside of it,” Suhr said. “It’s something I’ve kind of looked into but it’s a zero factor.”
To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Rio Olympics begin this Friday, Aug. 5, on NBC.