Serena Williams Isn't Playing at the Tokyo Olympics

·3 min read
Serena Williams Isn't Playing at the Tokyo Olympics

After a year-long wait, Team U.S.A. will finally have its chance to compete in the delayed Summer Olympics held in Tokyo this month. But if you're searching the opening ceremony for one of the world's best tennis players, you won't see her. All-time great Serena Williams is unfortunately sitting out this year's games for several reasons.

Where is Serena Williams and why is she not at the Olympics?

Despite qualifying for a spot on the U.S. team, Serena announced earlier this season that she would not compete at the Tokyo Olympics. The four-time gold medalist clinched a spot back in May after the Italian Open, but confirmed at Wimbledon she would not appear on the official roster for Japan.

"There’s a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision," the 39-year-old athlete said at a news conference in June. "I don’t feel like going into them today. Maybe another day. Sorry."

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill - Getty Images
Photo credit: Clive Brunskill - Getty Images

Serena had already shared one potential reason, though: the strict policies about who can attend the games this year. Tokyo officials have disallowed overseas spectators, including competitors' families, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

When asked at an earlier press conference if she would travel to the Olympics without her 3-year-old daughter, Olympia, Serena replied, "I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself."

The pandemic-related restrictions have put many athlete parents in a hard place this year. American soccer player Alex Morgan and U.S. marathoner Aliphine Tuliamuk spoke out earlier this spring about the rule prohibiting athletes from bringing their children, successfully arguing for an exception for nursing mothers.

But while Olympic officials did announce in June that breastfeeding babies could now join their parents, they did not mention any allowances for older kids — a policy that may have impacted Serena's choice.

"I would not be able to go function without my 3-year-old around," the four-time Olympian said earlier this year. "I think I would be in a depression. We’ve been together every day of her life."

Another possible factor in her decision: the heartbreaking injury Serena suffered during the first round of Wimbledon. While up in the first set against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, she slipped on the grass court and hurt her right leg. Although Serena attempted to play through the pain, she later made the difficult decision to withdraw.

Without the Olympics on her schedule, Serena can now rest up and better assess whether she'll play in the U.S. Open at the end of the summer. Competing at Arthur Ashe Stadium in September would give her the chance to tie with Margaret Court for the most major titles ever, an eye-popping 24 championship wins.

Photo credit: Cameron Spencer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Cameron Spencer - Getty Images

While Serena may have to miss out on the Tokyo Games, her legacy as an Olympian still remains golden. In addition to securing a first-place medal in women's singles at the 2012 London Olympics, she has also brought home three more golds in women's doubles with her sister Venus Williams — with the first one dating all the way back to the 2000 Sydney Games when she was just 19.

Still dominant on the world stage two decades later, Serena has already proven time and time again that she's one of the best — Tokyo or not.

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