Carly Patterson on Skipping Rio Olympics While Trying to Get Pregnant: 'Zika Is a Scary Thought'

"I went back and forth with my husband," Carly Patterson tells PEOPLE of deciding whether or not to go to Rio

Photo: Courtesy Carly Patterson

Carly Patterson was the 2004 Olympic all-around champion and she’s a USA gymnastics Hall of Fame member. But she will not be going to Rio this year to provide commentary as the women’s gymnastics team competes.

Patterson declined offers to be a correspondent at this year’s Games for fear of contracting the Zika virus – and she made the decision months ago.

Patterson and her husband Mark Caldwell have been trying to get pregnant for over a year and the athlete says it’s just not worth it to her to head to Brazil next month.

“I went back and forth with my husband and tried to figure out what to do,” Patterson, 28, tells PEOPLE. “I decided not to go several months back. We knew it was causing microcephaly and miscarriages and to have your doctor say don’t go, well that’s scary and that’s something I took seriously right away.”

The gymnast says she was offered a spot as an ambassador for U.S.A. Gymnastics and as a correspondent for the Today show, but turned both opportunities down.

“I had to tell the USA Gymnastics president that I was declining,” she says. “[A family] is something that we’ve been working on for over a year now, so with that in mind, it’s kind of like one of those things that we didn’t want to put it on hold any longer with the trouble we’ve been having.”

Patterson, an advocate for Fit Organic‘s mosquito repellent, says she doesn’t feel safe from Zika in her hometown of Dallas, either.

“I don’t go out in the morning or night here and [I’m] trying to do everything I can to protect myself,” she says. “I wear long sleeves and keep my skin covered. And I try not to wear dark clothing.”

She adds, “I’m no scientist, but I’m at the age and stage in life where I need to be aware of the ramifications Zika can have.”

Patterson, friends with many of the Rio women’s gymnastics team hopefuls, is encouraging her pals to bring their mosquito repellent should they make the team.

“They’re young so they’re not really looking to have kids, which is a relief,” she says. “I’m worried for anyone around my age in Rio, though. Zika is a scary thought and situation to be in.”

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