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Spanish Olympian Disappointed to Leave Breastfeeding Son at Home


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The Spanish swimmer Ona Carbonell says she is disappointed to leave her breastfeeding son at home.

Ona Carbonell competing in Gwangju, South Korea, at the world championships in 2019. Credit…Clive Rose/Getty Images

July 21, 2021, 6:53 p.m. ET

The Spanish artistic swimmer Ona Carbonell is expressing her “disappointment and disillusionment” that it is not practical to bring her son to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics while she is breastfeeding him.

Carbonell said in an Instagram video this week that she would not take her son, Kai, who is nearly a year old, to the Games. She said she had to choose between her family and her Olympic goals in artistic swimming, the sport formerly known as synchronized swimming.

“A few weeks ago, some female athletes started posting about this on social media,” she said in Spanish in the video as she breastfed her son. “The subject was to choose between family and breastfeeding or to participate in the Olympic Games.”

“We were told this was not compatible,” she said.

At the end of June, the Tokyo organizing committee loosened a restriction on bringing infants who are nursing to the Games. But the conditions imposed still made it difficult for mothers, Carbonell said, because children would have to stay in a hotel outside of the Olympic confines and under strict quarantine.

“They wouldn’t be allowed to leave the hotel room during the 20-ish days I’d be in Tokyo,” Carbonell said. “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 their hotel, risking my team’s health.”

Carbonell, 31, is competing in her third Olympics. She won a silver medal in the duet competition and a bronze medal in the team competition in London in 2012, and placed fourth in the duet competition in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

In a message accompanying the Instagram video, she said that while she had received “countless expressions of support and encouragement to go to Tokyo with Kai,” she “wanted to express my disappointment and disillusionment that I will finally have to travel without him.”

The International Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her video.

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