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U.S. runners say fear of Zika virus won’t keep them from Rio

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Thursday, February 18, 2016, 6:45 PM

Shannon Rowbury (front r.) says the Rio Summer Olympics are her best shot at a medal.Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Shannon Rowbury (front r.) says the Rio Summer Olympics are her best shot at a medal.

Shannon Rowbury is 31 and has already qualified for two Summer Olympics — the 2008 and 2012 Games — in the 1,500-meter race, but she feels like her best, and maybe last, chance to medal will be in Rio de Janeiro this summer if she makes Team USA.

With that goal in mind, Rowbury says the health concerns raised by international health agencies regarding the Zika virus and its spread throughout the Americas and the Caribbean are not great enough to prevent her from traveling to Brazil for the 2016 Games in August if she qualifies.

“For me, this would be my third Olympics, potentially my best shot at a medal,” Rowbury told the Daily News Thursday. “It would be a huge honor to represent my country. I am going to train to make that a reality and hope that the government in Brazil and the U.S. federation can make sure to take care of all those health concerns.”

Rowbury was one of several athletes who gathered at the Midtown Manhattan Park Central Hotel in advance of competing at the 109th Millrose Games this weekend at the famed Armory. Like Rowbury, other female Olympic hopefuls said they were more focused on fulfilling their Olympic dreams.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is currently no vaccine for the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Some of its symptoms include rashes, fever and conjunctivitis, but scientists and researchers have also determined a link between the virus and a condition known as microcephaly — when babies are born with shrunken heads.

Natasha Hastings, a Brooklyn-born sprinter who won a gold medal in the 4 x 400-meter relay in Beijing, says she believes the International Olympic Committee “on down to our own federation (USA Track & Field) will do what’s necessary and let the athlete know what we have to do.”

But Hastings, 29, also says she can “definitely relate” to U.S. Women’s Soccer goalie Hope Solo’s recent remarks, when Solo said she “wouldn’t go” to Rio because of the potential risks the virus poses, including for pregnant women. “I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child,” Solo said.

“I can definitely say that is something that I can relate to — I’m 29 and I’m getting to the age where the clock is ticking,” Hastings told The News. “Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone in the picture. I think it’s just focus on your own thing. Focus on what you have control over. I’m going to trust the U.S.A Track & Field and the USOC to take the necessary precautions to make sure we’re OK.”


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