An American swimmer who brought three golds and a silver home from Rio de Janiero in 2016 says she is heartbroken to be pulling out of the Tokyo Paralympic Games—but US Olympic authorities have left her no choice. Becca Meyers, who is deaf and blind, has been told she can't bring a personal care assistant to Japan because of COVID restrictions on delegations, but after some terrifying experiences in 2016, she won't go without one, NPR reports. Meyers, 26, has been deaf since birth due to a rare genetic condition and her sight has been gradually declining. Since the 2016 Games, when she found herself unable to eat because she couldn't find the athletes' dining area, her mother has accompanied her as a PCA to international events, where she has continued to excel, reports the Washington Post. In 2019, she won four medals and set two world records at the World Para Swimming Championships in London.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Meyers described the decision to withdraw as "gut-wrenching." "I'm angry, I'm disappointed, but most of all, I'm sad not to be representing my country," she said. The US Olympic & Paralympic Committee says one dedicated PCA will be supporting the 34 athletes on the Paralympic swim team. Nine are sight-impaired but Meyers is the only one who is also deaf. The USOPC has cited restrictions imposed by organizers, but Meyers and her parents say the committee could have chosen to bring more PCAs, the Post reports. They say the assistants of Paralympians should be classified as essential personnel, like the caddies of golfers are. Meyers says the other athletes are "trying to figure out how they're going to get around. I've talked to some of them, and they're afraid." (Read more Paralympics stories.)