This weekend, Kemar Bailey-Cole, the gold-winning Jamaican Olympic sprinter, revealed that he is suffering from the Zika virus. The Associated Press is now reporting that he will still participate in next week’s Olympic trials.
Bailey-Cole participated in the winning Jamaican 4x100m relay squad at the London Olympics in 2012 alongside fellow sprinter Usain Bolt. The accomplished Jamaican sprinter also participated in the world championships in 2013 and took home the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow for the 100m race in 2014. The Guardian writes that the 24-year-old sprinter expressed his concerns at the effect the virus would have on his chances of qualifying for the Jamaican team for the Rio Olympics.
“I was experiencing back pains and muscle soreness, but I thought it was just soreness from the exercises I was doing,” Bailey-Cole said. “I didn’t know I had it until I went to get a haircut. After cleaning up, my girlfriend realized a bump was on my neck, which was a lymph node.”
This is not the first time health issues have jeopardized Bailey-Cole’s career. In 2015, the sprinter had to take an extended break after contracting the Chikungunya virus and sustaining a hamstring injury. He is set to go up against other lightning fast Jamaican sprinters at the Olympic qualifiers for a spot on the Jamaican Olympic team. Some of the sprinters he will be competing against in the trials include Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Nickel Ashmeade, and of course Bolt. Naturally, going up against such formidable competition has the Jamaican sprinter worried about the effect this illness will have on his chances.
Bailey-Cole told the press, as reported by the Guardian, “I am a little worried but I am not letting that get in front of me. I am just praying that I get the strength to carry me through the rounds…Recovering is not easy because as we speak, the rashes are still on my body. My eyes hurt but the best thing is that I am not feeling any muscle pain at the moment.”
Zika has become a hot-button issue surrounding the Olympics with both athletes and journalists hesitant to travel to Brazil out of fear of contracting the virus. Zika is not a particularly severe virus. According to the World Health Organization, the symptoms are mild and typically last for two to seven days. Zika gained increased public attention in the last year due to an outbreak in Brazil in 2015 and its link to microcephaly in the children of women who contracted the virus while pregnant. Zika has since spread throughout the Americas.
On Wednesday, pro golfer Rory McIlroy announced that he would be skipping the August Olympic games. He is the highest-profile athlete to withdraw from this year’s Olympics. McIlroy plays for Ireland.
Others have decided to take the risk – but with a few contingency plans. The United States’ volleyball team coach has said he will preserve his sperm before travelling to Brazil in case of future pregnancy plans. Olympic officials have dismissed criticisms that say athletes should not be asked to perform in the middle of a public health emergency stating that the risk of contracting Zika is minimal.
“Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk, nonetheless, and a risk I am unwilling to take,” Rory McIlroy said in a statement reported by the New York Times.
The games are expected to continue as scheduled. For athletes like Jamaican sprinter Kemar Bailey-Cole, it is no longer a matter of contracting Zika but how long it will take the virus to pass. Hopefully for the Jamaican gold-winner, it is gone within those two to seven days cited by the World Health Organization.
The 2016 Rio Olympic Games start on August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
[Image source: Julian Finney/GettyImages]