U.S. Figure Skating on Saturday announced the women’s team heading to Beijing for the Winter Olympics next month. It will include a top competitor who withdrew after a positive coronavirus screening. This stark reminder of a resurgent pandemic that is still capable of disrupting sporting events and destroying dreams of life for many, will be part of it.
“Things happen unfortunately, but it is what it is,” Alysa Liu wrote on social media after her withdrawal on Friday. Despite missing nationals, her strong showing on the international circuit this season helped secure her a spot at the Games. Skaters are selected for the Olympic team based on their body of work over the course of a year — the U.S. national championships in figure skating are not an Olympic trial event, as they are in some other sports.
Also named to the women’s singles team were Mariah Bell, the 25-year-old whose victory on Friday made her the oldest female national singles champion in 95 years, and Karen Chen, 22, a 2018 Olympian who finished second to Bell.
Liu, 16, is among at least six skaters who tested positive this week and withdrew from nationals as the highly contagious Omicron variant drives a new wave of infections around the world — just weeks before the Beijing Games are scheduled to begin. Many of the skaters reported that they took strict measures, including avoiding private lessons at rinks, to avoid such unfortunate outcomes.
Amber Glenn, another skater, tested positive and withdrew “with a heavy heart” from nationals, losing what was her last opportunity to impress the Olympic selection committee. She posted on Instagram that she had taken precautions, including social distancing as well as wearing K95 face masks. She stated that she initially thought the early symptoms were caused by allergies or nerves.
Brandon Frazier, who is the reigning national pairs champion with Alexa Knierim tested positive on Wednesday, and withdrew his entry from competition. U.S. Figure Skating will announce the United States’ two Olympic pairs teams on Sunday, and Frazier and Knierim said they had petitioned to be selected for the Games.
It is not yet clear how long it will take potential Olympians to feel well enough for them to start testing negative or skate again. This uncertainty will only increase as many athletes are preparing to travel to Beijing soon.
China has already announced elaborate measures in order to prevent the coronavirus from reaching its population or Winter Games participants. Chinese officials last month outlined some of the most stringent rules for their citizens who are attending the Games.
Spectators — which were already limited to residents of China — will be allowed to clap, but not shout, in support of athletes. Waiters, cleaners, and other support staff are not allowed to leave Olympic venues in order to visit their families. Any Olympic participants who are traveling to China for the first time will have to spend at most one week in quarantine. Then, they will need to be isolated at home for at least two weeks.
Foreign athletes, trainers, coaches, referees, journalists and a few others will be restricted to a “closed loop” of hotels and sports venues, linked by special buses and trains. Everybody will have to face daily P.C.R. tests.
Yet, Chinese officials acknowledged that they were prepared for the possibility of some infections at the Olympics.
Source: NY Times