The Australian track and field team has been released from a temporary lockdown inside the Olympics Village following a Covid-19 scare on day six of the Tokyo Games.Three members of the team had brief contact with a US track and field athlete who tested positive to the virus late Thursday morning.
The trio, who had all been vaccinated, self-reported once they heard they had been in contact with the positive athlete, subsequently forcing all teammates into isolation.
All Australian athletes, including the three close contacts, have since returned negative PCR tests.
Fifty four members of the track and field team, including 41 athletes and 13 officials, spent a little over two hours in their rooms awaiting testing results.
All members of the team have been allowed to resume with their regular routines except the three close contacts, who have remained in isolation.
“Once again, abundant caution and our strict protocols continue to keep the Team safe. We will continue to be very thorough in our observance of the Tokyo playbooks and our own additional measures,” Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said.
“We want every Australian athlete to be in a position to have their Olympic moment. We will continue to be vigilant.”
The three affected athletes will be tested daily and be allowed to resume training, subject to strict protocols that restricts their contact with others.
At this stage all athletes are expected to compete as planned.
However, Australia’s Nina Kennedy suggested herself and Kurtis Marschall were kicked out of the Olympic Village on Thursday.
Athletes told to isolate immediately
Earlier, the athletics team received a message while many were training at the Olympic Stadium informing them to return to the village, according to Channel 7’s Chris Reason.
“Disturbing and worrying news,” Reason said.
“They got a message to return immediately to the Athletes’ Village to get out of where they were training and basically isolate themselves in their rooms until further notice.”
It came after American pole-vaulter Sam Kendricks was banned from competing at the Tokyo Games as a result of his positive test. He is reported to have been training with Aussie pole-vaulter Kurtis Marshall.
The Australian Olympic Committee isolated the entire team while Covid-19 testing was conducted.
“Members of Australia’s track and field team at the Tokyo Olympic Games are isolating in their rooms as a precautionary measure following news of a COVID positive finding with a member of the US track and field Team,” an Australian Olympic Committee spokesperson said at the time.
“Members of the Australian track and field team are now undergoing testing procedures in line with Australian Olympic Team protocols.”
The athletics schedule begins from Friday morning, leaving the Aussie track and field team with an uncertain future.
Chaos after US pole vaulter tests positive
Two-time world pole vault champion Kendricks was ruled out of the Tokyo Games on Thursday after testing positive for coronavirus, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee confirmed.
“We are saddened to confirm that Sam Kendricks tested positive for Covid-19 and will not compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” the USOPC said in a statement on Twitter.
Kendricks won back-to-back gold medals at the 2017 and 2019 world championships and was one of the main contenders for the title in Tokyo along with Swedish world record holder Armand Duplantis.
The charismatic 28-year-old, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is now in isolation, the USOPC added.
“In alignment with local rules and protocols, he has been transferred to a hotel to be placed in isolation and is being supported by the USATF (USA Track and Field) and USOPC staff,” the USOPC said.
“Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed. Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time.” The positive test comes just two days before the start of the men’s pole vault competition on Saturday.
Kendricks’ father and coach, Scott Kendricks, had first announced news of his son’s Covid test result earlier Thursday in an Instagram post that was subsequently deleted.
“Today in Tokyo officials informed Sam that his daily test for Cov 19 was positive,” Scott Kendricks wrote. “So he is out of the competition. He feels fine and has no symptoms. Love you son. See you soon.”
Almost 200 cases in Olympic village
The number of Covid-19 cases linked to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has risen to 198, according to Tokyo 2020 organisers today.
Four new cases were reported from Tokyo’s Olympic Village, bringing total infections connected to the village to 24.
Three of the new cases were identified as athletes and were all residents of the village.
The other new cases were identified as Games-related personnel and contractors.
Cases skyrocketing in Japan
Daily virus cases in Tokyo topped 3,000 for the first time on Wednesday, as several neighbouring regions weighed emergency restrictions to tackle a surge in infections.
Tokyo, which is already under a virus state of emergency as it hosts the Olympics, reported 3,117 cases, and Governor Yuriko Koike called on people to avoid “unnecessary, non-urgent outings.” Japan’s vaccination programme started slowly, and only just over 25 percent of the population has had two jabs.
“I want young people to get vaccinated. Young people’s behaviour is the key. I’m asking them please for their cooperation,” Koike said.
Japan has seen a comparatively small coronavirus outbreak, with around 15,000 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns.
The state of emergency in place in Tokyo mostly limits bar and restaurant opening hours and bans them from selling alcohol, though experts have warned compliance is dropping and cases are surging among young people.
Cases are also rising elsewhere, and three regions surrounding Tokyo — Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa — are now considering seeking a virus emergency from the national government.
The spike in cases is likely to increase scrutiny of the Olympic Games, with persistent concerns over whether the event could drive infections.
Olympic participants face various restrictions, including regular testing and limits on their movement.
And 124,358 tests of Olympic athletes and team officials this month revealed just 22 confirmed positive cases, according to Tokyo 2020 organisers. The figure does not include tests at airports.
Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato called on Japanese to avoid meeting and drinking in groups, suggesting people “watch the Olympic Games at home.” Fans are barred from almost all Olympic venues, though people have been showing up at competitions on public roads.
But Tokyo resident Takahiko Nimomoya said he was worried about the rising cases. “I think the government isn’t feeling the seriousness of the situation,” the 55-year-old told AFP.
“They are just focusing on the Olympics.”

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