Nick Matthew column: The Olympics should be the pinnacle for any athlete

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy
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The Open is one of the highlights of the British sporting summer.

The event starts at Royal Troon today and it would be great if we could have another British winner following on from Lewis Hamilton and Andy Murray’s successes in Formula One and tennis respectively last Sunday. The less said about England’s football team the better!

Heading into one of the sport’s majors, you would like to think golf would be making the headlines for all the right reasons but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The top four players in the world: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIIroy have all now pulled out of this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.

For me, the players shouldn’t be castigated for that decision. It is the powers at be who have put golf in the Olympics who are to blame, not the players themselves.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have clearly seen the commercial aspect of golf and gone down that route.

But the Olympics should be the pinnacle for all sports and it clearly isn’t with sports like golf and football.

Reigning Open champion Zach Johnson was very honest the other day when he admitted he would rather be in America’s Ryder Cup team than win an Olympic gold medal. The Olympics are not their priority. A gold medal might not change their life and I’ve got no problem with that.

I understand the Zika virus is a real threat. Athletes have changed where their holding camps were going to be because they want to spend the minimum amount of time that they possibly can in Brazil.

But I don’t think golfers are more at risk at contracting Zika than other athletes who are going to Rio. It is not stopping Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis-Hill or Sir Bradley Wiggins travelling so it seems to me that the Zika virus is a convenient excuse for some golfers as the Olympics doesn’t fit in with their schedules.

It is disappointing and makes it more frustrating for sports like mine who want to be included in the Olympics programme.

I was at the gym in the EIS the other day and one of the boxers walked in and had their Olympic kit on and you do cast a few envious glances at them. It is a massive blow for squash that we aren’t in the Olympics and when people underappreciate something you would give your left arm for, it does leave a little bit of a sour taste in the mouth.