US women’s gymnastics team alternate tests positive for COVID days before Olympics

Olympics

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI – JUNE 25: Kara Eaker smiles after landing her dismount off the balance beam during the Women’s competition of the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials at America’s Center on June 25, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

TOKYO (NewsNation Now) — Kara Eaker, an alternate on the United States women’s gymnastics team, has tested positive for COVID-19 in an Olympic training camp in Japan.

Al Fong, the personal coach for both Eaker and fellow Olympic alternate Leanne Wong, confirmed the positive test in an email to The Associated Press on Monday. The coach said Eaker, 18, was vaccinated against the novel coronavirus two months ago.

Eaker and Wong have been placed in isolation.

USA Gymnastics did not identify Eaker or Wong but said in a statement the athlete who tested positive and another alternate would be subject to additional quarantine restrictions.

“The Olympic athletes moved to separate lodging accommodations and a separate training facility, as originally planned, and will continue their preparation for the Games,” the organization said in a statement. “The entire delegation continues to be vigilant and will maintain strict protocols while they are in Tokyo.”

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee did not say if Olympic champion Simone Biles or any of the other favorites to win the team gold were isolated because of contact tracing.

The positive test was the latest in a growing line of daily reports of athletes and others testing positive at the pandemic-delayed Olympics. Eaker is the first American to test positive.

The four alternates — Eaker, Leanne Wong, Kayla DiCello and Emma Malabuyo — traveled to Japan with the six-woman U.S. delegation of Biles, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey.

The positive test came after Eaker received what was described as a “false positive” over the weekend. Eaker took a subsequent test that was negative before testing positive again multiple times.

Eaker finished seventh overall in the U.S. Gymnastics Trials in June. She was joined by GAGE teammate Wong as alternates for the team.

Wong posted on her Instagram story, “Prayers for a speedy recovery for one of our teammates.”

The alternates are rooming and training with the alternates. While they have been traveling to training along with the actual team, they have been split into groups, with the team working on one apparatus while the alternates work on another.

“The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority. We can confirm that an alternate on the women’s artistic gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19,” the USOPC statement said. “In alignment with local rules and protocols, the athlete has been transferred to a hotel to quarantine. Out of respect for the individual’s privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time.”

Biles, the defending world champion, and the rest of the regular team have been vaccinated. Skinner, who made the team in the “plus-one spot” — meaning she can compete as an individual in Tokyo — following Olympic Trials did battle both COVID-19 and pneumonia last winter.

The Games are set to open on Friday with a state of emergency in force in Tokyo, which means almost all venues will be without any fans with new cases rising in the capital. The women’s gymnastic team begins competing on Sunday.

The U.S. officials said the test took place when the team was training just outside Tokyo in Inzai City. Team members arrived last week for the camp to great fanfare at Narita airport.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Monday reported 727 new cases in the capital. It is the 30th straight day that cases were higher than the previous week. The cases last Monday were 502.

The Associated Press and Nexstar Media Wire contributed to this report.

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