Synchronised swimmer lashes out over Olympics breastfeeding rule

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Ona Carbonell, pictured here with her infant son Kai.
Ona Carbonell has been forced to leave her infant son at home in Spain. Image: Getty/Instagram

Spanish synchronised swimming star Ona Carbonell has hit out at Olympics organisers after being forced to leave her infant son at home.

Carbonell said she is disappointed and disillusioned that she cannot take her breastfeeding son with her to Tokyo because her family would be subject to drastic restrictions in Japan.

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Taking to Instagram on Thursday, Carbonell said her husband and son Kai, who is nearly 12 months old, would have to stay in quarantine in a separate hotel.

In addition, she said they would not be able to leave their room for the 20 or so days she would be in Japan.

"For me to go and breastfeed Kai whenever he needs it during the day I would have to leave the Olympic villa, the team's bubble, and go to the hotel, risking my team's health," she posted.

"I had to make a really tough decision ... because the Japanese government's impositions are not compatible with my athletic performance and being with my family at the same time.

"I hope other athletes can get along with these conditions and still take their kids with them. Personally I can't accept these conditions. 

"I won't be ok, I would have to use the breast pump for 20 days hoping that Kai still wants to be breastfed, something which is very important for me."

Gemma Mengual and Ona Carbonell, pictured here in action at the Olympics Qualification Tournament in 2016.
Gemma Mengual and Ona Carbonell in action at the Olympics Qualification Tournament in 2016. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Strict rules around athletes' families at Tokyo Olympics

Carbonell had initially been told she could not take Kai with her as athletes' families could not travel to the Olympics due to the Covid-19 crisis.

But after seeing other athletes describing their distress at having to choose between the event and their infants, she and her coach petitioned the International Olympic Committee.

Two weeks ago they told her she could bring Kai, but only subject to rules set by the Japanese government.

"After receiving countless expressions of support and encouragement to go to Tokyo with Kai, I wanted to express my disappointment and disillusionment that I will finally have to travel without him," she said.

Ona Carbonell, pictured here with her husband at the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards.
Ona Carbonell with her husband at the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Games organisers said in a statement they did not comment on individual cases, but were committed to doing everything possible to allow athletes with breastfeeding children to compete.

"When necessary, nursing children and their caregivers are able to accompany athletes to Japan," they said.

"Suitable measures regarding testing and quarantine will govern their entry to the country."

Officials added that an area in the Olympic Village was available for athletes to safely spend time with and breastfeed their children but they must stay in private accommodation.

Carbonell said only the end of the pandemic would make reconciling motherhood and elite sport no longer something "practically impossible to carry out."

The rules around athletes' families and breastfeeding mothers have copped intense backlash.

with Reuters

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