Olympics-American Kendricks out for COVID-19 as pandemic casts pall on Games

TOKYO (Reuters) -American double world champion pole vaulter Sam Kendricks and rival German Chiaraviglio of Argentina were ruled out of the Olympics on Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19, sending a chill through the Games as infections spiked again in the host city.

FILE PHOTO: Athletics – Diamond League – Stockholm, Sweden – July 4, 2021 Sam Kendricks of the U.S. in action during the pole vault TT News Agency via REUTERS/Christine Olsson/tt

U.S. officials confirmed that Kendricks was ruled out here of the Games due to a positive test, prompting members of the Australian athletics team to briefly isolate in their rooms.

Swedish world record-holder Armand Duplantis told reporters he had not been in contact with his American rival.

“I have been super lucky just not to have come into contact with him,” he said. “All the pole vaulters are pretty spooked out right now.”

Argentina’s Chiaraviglio confirmed on social media that he was out of the Games as well, and was isolating in a hotel.

In Tokyo, where pandemic restrictions are mostly voluntary outside the “Olympic bubble”, daily infections hit a record 3,865, up from 3,177 a day earlier.

Daily cases nationwide topped 10,000 for the first time, domestic media reported.


China gained their first gold here in the Tokyo pool with Zhang Yufei winning the women’s 200 metre butterfly. She returned to the pool shortly afterwards to help her team beat the fancied Americans and Australians to win the 4×200 freestyle relay, setting a world record along the way.

The relay victory put China ahead of the United States on the gold medal rankings here and triggered cheers from Chinese journalists in the media centre.

It capped a morning of thrilling athleticism in the pool on the sixth day of the Games, which have been rocked by Simone Biles pulling out of gymnastic events and the early tennis exit of Naomi Osaka – moments that put the focus on athletes’ mental health here – and dogged by the worsening infection figures in Tokyo itself.

Japan led the medal tally with 15 golds to China’s 14, while the United States has 13.

The surprise world record by the Chinese women’s freestyle relay team provided a swift answer to the double gold for U.S. swimmers Caeleb Dressel in the 100 freestyle and Bobby Finke in the 800 freestyle.

“I wasn’t worried about anything at all,” Dressel said after pipping defending champion Kyle Chalmers of Australia by six hundredths of a second. “It means a lot, I knew the weight was on my shoulders.”


Members of the Australian athletics team briefly isolated as a precaution after Kendricks’ infection was announced. They were later cleared to return to their regular routines.

Games procedures state that athletes who are contact-traced and have not yet competed are isolated from the rest of their squad. They then have to be tested six hours prior to their competition and return a negative result in order to compete.

Japan’s top medical adviser urged the government to send a “clearer, stronger message” about the growing risks from the pandemic, including to the medical system.

“The biggest crisis is that society does not share a sense of risk,” top medical adviser Shigeru Omi told a parliamentary panel. “I want the government to send a stronger, clearer message.”

The hospitalisations and infection spike add to worries about the Games, which are taking place under unprecedented conditions including a ban on spectators in most venues.

Only 26.5% of residents of Japan are fully vaccinated, and the rollout has hit supply snags recently. More than 60% of Tokyo hospital beds available for serious COVID-19 cases were already filled as of Tuesday, city data showed.

Many Japanese are worried that the influx of athletes and officials for the Games will add to the surge, while experts have warned that holding the high profile sports event sends a confusing message about the need to stay home.

Olympics organisers have reported 193 COVID-19 cases related to the Games, a miniscule number given the tens of thousands of people involved in the event.

Athletes, staff and media have to follow strict rules to prevent any spread of the virus from inside an “Olympic bubble”.

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