Local athlete heading to Rio despite Zika fears

Posted at 6:25 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 08:49:27-04

It’s a homecoming for a Western New York native. With pointed feet, and a look of determination, 19-year-old Anita Alvarez is preparing for the biggest competition of her life.

“We just officially qualified, my partner Mariya and I, in the duet at the Olympic qualification so we officially earned our ticket to Rio this summer,” Anita said.

Anita and Mariya are spending a few days training at the Tonawanda Aquatics Center where Anita began her synchronized swimming career.

“So I’ve been around it my whole life started I was really young and competed on the Tonawanda Aquettes until I was 16.”

And now, with less than 100 days until the pair showcase their skill, butterflies are kicking in, as are thoughts of a looming international health crisis.

“People always ask us did you ever think of not going or dropping out of the Olympics,” Anita told 7 Eyewitness News. “But I mean no, this has been a dream of mine forever.”

A dream Anita says she won’t put on hold because of risks associated with a mosquito borne illness.

“Well I mean we’re a little concerned but we’re going to be prepared, we’re taking our bug spray and we’re going to be cautious,” Anita’s mother Karen Alvarez said.

In a statement obtained by ABC News, the International Olympic Committee issued a statement saying in part: "We remain confident that there will be a safe environment for successful and enjoyable Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro."

The Zika virus typically produces mild flu like symptoms but has also been linked to birth defect.

The Olympic committee recommends pregnant women or women who are planning to become pregnant discuss travel plans with their health care provider.

But with less than 100 days until Rio this duet is focused on the gold.

“We’re getting all the information we need and we’re going to follow what they say and focus on what we can control,” Anita said.