(Reuters) - South Korean pistol shooter Kim Jang-mi has declared she is no longer concerned by the Zika virus as she prepares to defend her gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Several athletes have already withdrawn from the Games citing concerns over Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has been shown to attack fetal brain cells and cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size and underdeveloped brains.
Kim, who won gold in the women’s 25 meter pistol event at the 2012 London Olympics, said her mind had been put at ease after competing in Rio at the World Cup in April.
“At first I didn’t think I would be so scared of them, but then I found myself applying mosquito repellent all over my body,” the 23-year-old told the Yonhap News Agency, adding that she had not been bitten once during her stay in Brazil.
“I guess my blood doesn’t taste so good.”
U.S. cyclist Tejay van Garderen as well as golfers Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and Fiji’s Vijay Singh have announced that they will skip the 2016 Games because of the Zika threat, but Kim is fully focused on defending her title.
“My goal is to win the gold medal again,” she added. “I haven’t been doing so well, and I know people are worried about it. But I am just trying to put myself through many different situations before the Olympics.”
The Rio Olympics take place from Aug. 5-21.
Reporting by Ian Rodricks in Bengaluru