(Reuters) – Swedish goaltender Robin Lehner will skip next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing after the 30-year-old said on Monday that his participation would not be ideal for his mental health.
Lehner, who plays for Vegas Golden Knights in the National Hockey League (NHL), said it was a tough decision for him to skip the Olympics, which he described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
Under its “zero-COVID” policy, China has had what are among the world’s strictest COVID-19 prevention measures.
The Games will be staged without foreign spectators and with all athletes and related personnel contained in a “closed-loop”, subject to daily testing for COVID-19.
“Reality is that what have been said about how it’s going to be is not ideal for my mental health,” Lehner said on Twitter.
“Took (a) long time to make (the) decision with my psychiatrist and family. My well being have to come first and being locked down and not knowing what happens if you test positive is too much of a risk for me.”
Lehner was expected to compete with Jacob Markstrom for a spot in Sweden’s starting lineup after two-time Olympic medallist Henrik Lundqvist retired earlier this year.
Sweden have twice won gold in the men’s ice hockey event at the Olympics — in 1994 and 2006. They were eliminated in the quarter-finals in Pyeongchang in 2018.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Rohith Nair)