Team GB athletes have spoken of their shock and described fearing for their Olympic dreams after six of their track and field team-mates were forced to isolate in Japan after being identified as close contacts of positive Covid cases.
The six athletes, plus two athletics staff members, were told they were close contacts after someone unconnected to Team GB on their flight to Japan was subsequently found to have Covid.
They were shut in their rooms at the Team GB preparation camp hotel in Yokohama, but all have since provided two negative PCR tests in the past 48 hours, allowing them some semblance of freedom while remaining isolated from the rest of their team-mates.
The athletes were allowed to return to outdoor training again on Monday morning after they were assigned their own separate space at the Todoroki Stadium. A section of the Team GB gym was also cordoned off for their use only.
The identity of those affected has not been revealed due to medical confidentiality, but it is understood that world champions Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, along with medal hopefuls Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie, are not affected.
“It is scary,” said 800-metre runner Daniel Rowden. “I felt for all the people in quarantine because it is the Olympic Games; you’ve worked really, really hard and you come here in really good shape but you’ve still got bits of training to do.
“To be locked in a room and not be able to do that kind of takes away from your confidence, takes away from your preparation.
“And then also there’s a bit of fear that the same thing could happen to us. Those people were on the flight the day before, so there’s a little bit of trepidation that the same thing could happen to people on our flight as well.”
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Richard Kilty, a member of the 4x100m relay squad, said: “I was at the training track and then when we heard the news the main thing was just worry for the athletes.
“There is always the worry that randomly you could be pinged up for whatever reason or come into contact with someone, and you don’t get a chance to train or compete.
“I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. Every athlete to make it here has gone through a lot. So to actually go to the Olympics, if someone was to come and miss out on their individual event this close to the Games it would be heartbreaking for anybody.”
Beth Dobbin, who will contest the 200m, said: “It has been so distressing for the athletes. If I was one of the athletes this had happened to I would be really distressed. But the team kept really calm. I did ring my mum after and she was stressing.
“I know everyone has worked really hard for the athletes to still be able to train. That’s the most important thing. If you can somehow train, the stress for them will be minimised. But it’s not an ideal situation. It is worrying, it is stressful.”
There is no set length of time a competitor must isolate for once identified as a close contact with every case “considered on an individual basis”.
Fortunately for those affected, athletics is one of the last Olympic sports to begin in Tokyo with the programme not starting until July 30.
Two more Olympic athletes were confirmed as testing positive for Covid on Monday, including a Czech beach volleyball player who may become the first person to be ruled out of the entire Tokyo Games.
Ondrej Perusic and his playing partner were due to begin their campaign against Latvia on July 26, but the Czech team have now applied to postpone the game until he is cleared to return to action. Perusic has conceded it may spell the end of his Tokyo Games.
“I don’t see it as the end of the world yet and I definitely don’t take it tragically just because it was far more important for me personally that we managed to qualify for the Olympics and that I proved to myself that I have it,” he said.
“There is a risk that I will either not play at all or for our team the tournament will be affected by this situation. This is a big complication.”
A female alternate on the United States gymnastics team also tested positive at a pre-Olympics training camp. She has been transferred to quarantine, while one of her team-mates has been forced into isolation as a close contact.
Four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles posted photos on social media of some of the remaining team moving into the Olympic Village.