Tennis star Coco Gauff is withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics after she tested positive for COVID-19 mere days before the start of the Games. Gauff, 17, is widely seen as one of the most promising young players in the world. As the highest-ranked American player going to the Olympics she was widely expected to headline the United States’ tennis team. “I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for COVID and won’t be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Gauff said on social media. “I want to wish Team USA best of luck and a safe games for every Olympian and the entire Olympic family.”
Gauff’s withdrawal was another stark reminder of how the Tokyo Olympics will be marked by the coronavirus with the opening ceremony scheduled for Friday. Organizers of the Games reported more than two dozen people who traveled to Japan for the Olympics have tested positive for COVID-19 this weekend. Most concerning of all is that cases were detected within the athletes’ village, where thousands of people will be staying.
On Sunday, authorities reported two athletes tested positive inside the village and a third athlete tested positive while in quarantine. That came a day after reports of the first positive test inside the village involving an organizer. Officials wouldn’t give much information beyond saying they were two athletes from the same country competing in the same sport. The South African Football Association confirmed that three people connected with its men’s soccer team tested positive, including two players. It was unclear whether these were the same cases that Olympic officials reported. The British Olympics Association also confirmed six athletes and two staff members are in quarantine after they were in close contact with someone who tested positive on their flight to Japan.
News of the positive COVID-19 cases come at a time when around 11,000 athletes and thousands more officials related to the Olympics will be arriving in Tokyo for the Games ahead of the opening ceremony. And the positive cases are only likely to exacerbate fears among the Japanese public that the Olympics could become a super-spreader event. The Games will be taking place when Tokyo is under a state of emergency due to rising COVID-19 cases.