Deaf-blind U.S. Paralympian Quits Olympics when Told She Can’t Bring Personal Care Assistant to Tokyo

Becca Meyers
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Swimmer Becca Meyers, who is deaf and blind, announced that she was pulling out of Team USA’s Paralympics swim team after being told she would not be allowed to bring her mother who also serves as a personal care assistant, along with her to Tokyo.

Meyers, who was thought a good prospect to win gold in up to four categories, said Monday that if she could not bring her mother to help her get around in Tokyo, she did not know how to attend the games.

The 26-year-old swimmer also said that she quit in part to raise awareness of the conditions some Paralympians face in Japan.

“I would love to go to Tokyo,” Meyers told the Washington Post. “Swimming has given me my identity as a person. I’ve always been Becca the Swimmer Girl. I haven’t taken this lightly. This has been very difficult for me. [But] I need to say something to effect change because this can’t go on any longer.”

Meyers suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome, which left her deaf at birth and has slowly degraded her eyesight. However, she is not totally blind and is rated as “Class S12” for the Olympics. S11s are totally blind, while S12s have a small amount of sight. Meyers is the only one of Team USA’s 34 Paralympic swimmers who is both blind and deaf.

The Olympian’s father was told via email that Japanese officials would not allow an assistant to enter the country with Meyers due to the country’s coronavirus restrictions. The Tokyo games rules state that only members of the Olympic delegations may enter the country for the games.

The athlete’s father, Mark Meyers, was told there would be “no exceptions” to the rules. Meyers also charges that the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) could have accredited Becca’s mother as an official delegation member but chose not to.

The USOPC confirmed to the Post that Becca’s mother would not be permitted to accompany Becca to Tokyo as a delegation member. However, the committee also noted that it had assigned one personal assistant to help take care of all 34 members of the Paralympic swim team.

Becca was not impressed.

“This is the Paralympics,” she said. “We should be celebrating everyone’s disabilities. We’ve broken barriers in society, defying all odds. And yet this is how we’re treated? Like a burden on the team?”

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