The recent experience of Australian skateboarders in the United States has delivered a timely reminder of the importance of vigilance and vaccines among the nation’s Olympic contingent.
Two Australian skateboarders recently contracted COVID-19 in America, ruining their hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo Games.
A group of Australians flew out earlier this month for a Tokyo 2021 qualifying event, only to find themselves self-isolating after two teammates and a coach tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is making the COVID-19 vaccine available to all athletes but not mandatory.
It’s believed some skaters opted against receiving their first jab.
But Australia’s Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman says the scare underlined why “we wanted our team vaccinated” before the Tokyo Games.
Chesterman says athletes know the International Olympic Committee (IOC) biosecurity bubble will be significantly different to the skateboarders’ arrangements.
“But it goes to show, we’re all going to have to be ever vigilant,” Chesterman said.
“We know in Japan it will be a whole-of-government approach to developing protocols.
“The resources going into protecting that bubble are enormous and pretty sophisticated. Everyone will be living in a bubble, from the moment they arrive until they go home.
“I don’t think too many of our athletes would be instantly concerned about (the skateboarders’ experience).”
Chesterman’s words came as the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, an official Tokyo 2021 sponsor, called for the Games to be cancelled because the event represents “a threat to health”.
There is still no indication the IOC, preparing to release an updated list of protocols, is contemplating such a move.
But Olympians know they risk being rubbed out of competition if they contract COVID-19 or are a close contact to a known case.
“That’s part of the reason we all thought it was important to get vaccinated,” Opals captain Jenna O’Hea said.
“We all did our own individual research, asked a lot of questions and went to different doctors to make sure what we’re doing was right.
“Everyone came to their own decision that it was … we’re just minimising risk as much as we can, some things will be out of our control.”
O’Hea’s squad will assemble in Las Vegas in July for a pre-Games camp and some warm-up matches.
“It’s not as if we will be gallivanting around the streets of the USA. We’ll be trying to limit our exposure as much as possible,” she said.