Golf: World No. 1 Lydia Ko wary of Zika virus ahead of Rio Olympics

Lydia Ko hits a shot at the HSBC Women's Championship in Singapore.
Lydia Ko hits a shot at the HSBC Women's Championship in Singapore. PHOTO: GHETTY IMAGES

SINGAPORE • The world's top woman golfer, Lydia Ko, will continue to monitor news of the mosquito-borne Zika virus sweeping across South America before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

The New Zealander did not discuss a possible Games pullout during a conference call with reporters on Monday, but said her concerns were with the people in the 23 countries and territories in the Americas that have been hit by the virus strongly linked to the devastating birth defect called microcephaly.

Brazil, the hardest-hit country and host of the Aug 5-21 Games, has reported around 3,700 cases of microcephaly which prevents the brain of a fetus from developing properly. There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus.

"First of all we are thinking more about the people there, the people who are affected by it rather than what is going to happen (with the Olympics)," said Ko, who will play at the HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore from March 3-6, when asked if she was worried by the situation.

"Obviously I'm just hoping that everybody there is safe. There are some things that we can't control and that it is out of our hands.

"We still have eight months until the Olympics, it's something we have got to keep looking at and monitoring but for now I guess that is all we can do."

Last week, the International Olympic Committee assured teams travelling to Brazil that the Games would be safe but it did urge visitors to be vigilant in protecting themselves with repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers.

Women who may be pregnant have been urged to discuss the trip with their healthcare provider.

Women's golf will debut at the Olympics this year, while the men's event returns for the first time since 1904. Sixty players will compete in each medal event based on the world rankings, with a limit of four on the number of players from each country.

Ko, the youngest golfer to become world No. 1 when she topped the rankings last year at 17, said her fellow professionals were keen to compete for gold. "Everybody is so excited for the Olympics," she said. "The Olympics will probably be my highest (priority)."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2016, with the headline 'Ko wary of Zika virus ahead of Rio'. Print Edition | Subscribe