Road To The Olympic Games

Canoe-Kayak

Mark Oldershaw bringing young family to Olympics despite Zika threat

Canadian canoeist Mark Oldershaw will bring his wife and infant daughter to the Rio Olympics amid concerns over the Zika virus in Brazil.

Canadian canoeist 'confident' that situation in Rio under control

Mark Oldershaw, pictured during the 2012 Summer Olympics, will have his family cheering him on at the upcoming Games in Rio. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada's Mark Oldershaw won't let fears about the Zika virus keep his family apart during the Rio Olympics this summer.

The 33-year-old canoeist won bronze in the C1 1000-metre race at the London Games in 2012 and will have his wife, former Olympic swimmer Annamay Pierse, and their infant daughter cheering him on in Brazil.

"Excited to have them there in the crowd," Oldershaw said Tuesday in a phone interview as part of a sponsorship with Pampers. "We're obviously very on top of the situation and getting all the information we can."

The World Health Organization declared Zika to be a global emergency in February. The mosquito-borne virus is harmless to most people, but has been proven to cause a number of severe birth defects and a rare syndrome that can result in death or temporary paralysis.

Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) president Tricia Smith said earlier this month that the organization is watching Zika "really closely" with the Games set to begin Aug. 5.

Meanwhile, a Canadian professor and more than 200 colleagues wrote an open letter to WHO last month, accusing it of shirking its responsibilities by not considering whether to recommend delaying or cancelling the event.

But while some athletes have expressed reservations about going to Brazil, with some even pulling out of the Games, Oldershaw said his family's plans haven't changed.

"We know that the COC and International Olympic Committee is very on top of it and making sure that it will be safe for athletes," said the native of Burlington, Ont. "I'm very confident it will be safe for me and Annamay and [baby] Josephine."

"Obviously it's something we have to be extra aware of, but something I'm very confident that will be under control."

Getting sick at an international sporting event is something that hits close to home for Oldershaw. Pierse came down with dengue fever after getting bitten by a mosquito at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The illness was so debilitating that the former world record-holder in the breaststroke eventually retired from swimming.

"We'll take extra precautions with bug spray and staying covered up, but it's also winter in Brazil, so there is a less likely chance [of getting bitten by a mosquito]," said Oldershaw. "We can't control everything, but we're very confident."

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