At long last, there’s some good news about Olympic golf.
As the world’s biggest stars continue to withdraw from the beleaguered event, citing concerns about everything from scheduling to security to the spread of disease, two top talents affirmed their commitment to compete when golf makes its return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence at the Rio Games in August.
World No. 6 Henrik Stenson of Sweden and World No. 12 Sergio Garcia of Spain both acknowledged the risks athletes will face in Rio but said the opportunity to golf for gold was too good to pass up.
“I’ve got three kids at home and I’m not looking to have any more. The Zika virus is not a concern of mine,” Stenson told reporters at the Scottish Open. “I’ve been looking forward to playing in Rio for quite some time. I think that’s going to be an experience of a lifetime … If I can go there, compete and compete well, if I make myself and my country happy, that would be something very special. I have a few nice trophies at home and it would be nice to hang an Olympic medal next to them.”
Stenson, known for his sense of humor, offered a more, uh, memorable explanation to ESPN’s Jason Sobel.
Henrik Stenson on why he’s still planning to compete in the Olympics: “I’m not afraid of mosquitos. I’m more afraid of bears.”
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) July 6, 2016
Garcia echoed Stenson’s enthusiasm via Twitter.
I know there r some dangers but representing Spain, trying to make golf grow & becoming an Olympian r too important so I’ll be at @Olympics
— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) July 6, 2016
Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are among the marquee names who have already withdrawn from the competition, endangering (in some observers’ opinions) golf’s chances to remain in the Olympic Program beyond the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Stenson, however, found reason for optimism.
“Like with any competition, five years down the line you’re not going to think about who wasn’t there,” he said. “You’re going to think about who won the medals.”
Organizers, at least, are surely hoping he’s right.