One of the greatest athletes of the last century won’t be making an appearance at the Tokyo Olympics. On Sunday Serena Williams confirmed that she’s skipping the games during a pre-Wimbledon video news conference.
“I’m actually not on the Olympic list. … Not that I’m aware of. If so, then I shouldn’t be on it,” Williams shared when asked if she planned to compete.
Williams, 39, has won four Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles play. At the most recent Rio games in 2016 she did not receive a medal.
“There’s a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision. I don’t really want to—I don’t feel like going into them today. Maybe another day. Sorry,” she continued.
“I have not thought about it. In the past [the Olympics] has been a wonderful place for me. I really haven’t thought about it, so I’m going to keep not thinking about it.”
While Williams did not reveal what led to her decision, there are definitely reasons for speculation. Williams has been a spoken advocate for working mothers, especially after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. in 2017.
Almost two months ago International Olympic Committee spokesman Christian Klaue told USA Today Sports that athletes with children would be allowed to bring their families to the games on a case-by-case basis, due to Japan’s COVID-19 restrictions. This year due to the pandemic Japan banned visitors from 152 countries unless “exceptional circumstances are found” in order to help stop the spread.
The grueling schedule could also be a factor, especially since Williams is expected to continue through the season until the U.S. Open. The Tokyo Olympic tennis games begin on July 24, 14 days after the Wimbledon women’s final, and ends Aug. 1, almost a month before the U.S. Open.
Prior to her Sunday announcement, Williams said she was hesitant to remain away from her daughter for long periods of time.
“I haven’t really thought much about that. That’s a really good question,” Williams told reporters in May. “I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself. We’re best friends.”
Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner, last won a grand slam at the 2017 Australian Open while she was pregnant with her daughter. Williams is the No. 2-ranked American tennis player and the No. 8-ranked women’s tennis player in the world.