Aussie golfer Leishman to skip Olympics over Zika fears


Sydney (AFP) - Golfer Marc Leishman pulled out of the Rio Olympics on Thursday over fears about the Zika virus and its possible impact on his wife, after fellow Australian Adam Scott also withdrew.

Leishman is Australia's number three and after Scott's controversial move to skip Rio because of his busy schedule, he was in line to join world number one Jason Day in Brazil.

But the threat of mosquito-borne Zika and the possible infection of his wife, Audrey, who almost died of toxic shock syndrome last year, have forced him to give it a miss.

"It is with deep regret that I have informed Golf Australia that I will be unable to represent my country in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil," the world number 35 said on the Golf Australia website.

"Many of you may know that last April my children and I almost lost my wife, Audrey, to toxic shock syndrome.

"Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100 percent recovery of her immune system.

"We have consulted with Audrey's physician and due to her ongoing recovery from toxic shock and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate."

Brazil has been the epicentre of the Zika outbreak, which is blamed for birth defects in babies born to women infected with the virus.

Australian Olympic team chef de mission Kitty Chiller said she sympathised with Leishman's situation.

"We understand that family must always come first and we respect Marc's decision not to play in Rio," Chiller said.

Fiji's former world number one Vijay Singh also reportedly cited Zika as among his reasons when he said last month that he was opting out of Brazil.

Golf will return to the Olympics after a gap of 112 years in Rio but major-winners Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have all chosen not to play.

In Leishman's absence, Marcus Fraser, ranked 63, is set to join Day when Australia's Olympic golf team is finalised on July 11.

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