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Becca Meyers, Deaf-Blind Athlete, is Not Competing in the 2020 Olympics and We’re Mad About It


We’re mad about Becca Meyers not competing in the Olympics. The Gold-Medal winning Olympian was denied the ability to compete due to her disability and need for her mother to accompany her on the trip to Tokyo. Does U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee not understand discrimination and hearing loss do not belong together?

Becca Meyers, Renowned Swimmer has Usher Syndrome

Imagine this. Becca Meyers was born with Usher Syndrome. This means she has always been deaf, and has retinitis pigmentosa stealing her eyesight while your committee is preoccupied with their admin.

But please, don’t let this stress your beating hearts. This young woman is streets ahead of you. She studied history of disability at college. Then she did swimming training and won dominated swimming events.

Becca’s Olympic Records That May Have Escaped Your Attention

World Para Swimming Championships, London 2019

  • Gold: 400 Meter Freestyle
  • Silver 200 Meter Individual Medley
  • Bronze: 100 Meter Freestyle and 100 Meter Butterfly

WORLD RECORDS: 400 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter Individual Medley

AMERICAN RECORDS: 400 Meter Freestyle, 200 Meter Individual Medley, 100 Meter Freestyle, 50 Meter Freestyle, and 100 Meter Breaststroke

Mexico World Para Swimming Championships 2017: Mexico City

  • Gold medal: 400 Meter Freestyle
  • Silver: 100 Meter Butterfly and 100 Meter Freestyle
  • Bronze: 100 Meter Breast Stroke

But That Is Not All You Forgot in Favor of the Rules

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee may have overlooked a few more details when they blocked Becca Meyers from competing at the Olympics.  For the record, she also won medals for swimming at the following events:

  • International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships 2015: Glasgow, Scotland
  • Pan Pac Para-Swimming Championships 2014: Pasadena, California
  • International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships 2013: Montreal, Canada

Discrimination Prevented Becca Meyers from Competing

We understand you are trying your best. For all we know, you might even agree it’s a shame Becca Meyers could not compete at the Tokyo Olympics. However, this does not help a young woman born 1994 at the peak of her career.

It not enough to say she has her seeing eye dog named ‘Birdie’ to help her overcome sympathy she does not want. Discriminated people struggle every day with well-meaning autocrats saying ‘we are sorry, but we cannot allow that. It is the rules, you see’.

Becca Meyers May Not Have a Personal Olympic Assistant

Becca’s seeing-eye dog could be a little out its death in an overseas country where they speak Japanese and may have different ways of doing things.  So, it’s reasonable for this gifted swimmer to have a human companion. And who could possibly deny her the right to ask her Mum to accompany her?

Things were looking good until U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee denied Becca Meyers and her Mum that right. The official reason was the coronavirus rules meant the ‘bus’ was already full. Well that might have been fair to other contestants, but did anyone ask their opinion?

Bad things happened in the name of the rule of law in the past. Some are still happening right now, even in the United States. From where we sit, one of ‘the worst sins’ must surely be denying a young person a right to chase their dreams?

Bill Chappell writing in NPR News cites Becca saying on social media. ‘I've had to make the gut-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. I'm angry, I'm disappointed, but most of all, I'm sad to not be representing my country.’

Disabled Olympians Have Different Needs

Becca tried the unaccompanied option at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics. She won three gold medals, but she says not being able to find her way about easily ‘left her deeply shaken’. Her Mum has been her constant companion at competitions fulfilling the role of personal assistant since then. She must have been gutted when told ‘we’re sorry, but you can’t go because of the rules’.

‘I would love to go to Tokyo,’ Becca 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.’

Rules Are Helpful, But They Can Skew the Truth

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee apparently believed they had no other option, from what we saw on NPR News. They were concerned a flood of other applications would follow if they allowed Becca’s Mum to accompany her.

We agree with her family the situation is untenable, and it must change. A wrong and a right do not equal a fair decision, or a compromise.

Becca’s coach Bruce Gemmel says ‘Your heart just breaks for her.  If our focus is putting athletes first … then we need to do better. We must do better.’ Let’s keep pushing for that to happen real soon!