Amber Hill became the third British athlete to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics due to a positive coronavirus test only hours after Team GB chief Mark England conceded that navigating the Games would not be an “easy ride”.
Hill, who was due to be the top-ranked competitor in the women’s skeet shooting competition, tested positive shortly prior to her scheduled departure, joining tennis players Johanna Konta and Dan Evans, both of whom withdrew last week.
The 23-year-old’s misfortune will hardly have eased nerves in the Team GB camp, following the news that six British athletes had been forced to self-isolate at their preparation camp in Yokohama due to being deemed close contacts of a positive case on their flight.
Chef de mission England had better news for the group, who have all been assured they will be able to compete in their respective events due to a clarification issued by the International Olympic Committee.
“This is a rule that was presented to everybody only in the last 48 hours by the IOC and Tokyo 2020,” England said.
“Any athlete in the Olympic Games that has been contacted for track-and-trace and is isolating, as long as they presenting negative tests… they are allowed to enter the field of play.”
It will not come as any solace to Hill that what England calls Team GB’s “robust” protocols have prevented any infections breaching its bubble in Japan.
Hill said: “There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now.
“After five years of training and preparation, I’m absolutely devastated to say that last night I received a positive Covid-19 test, meaning I’ve had to withdraw from Team GB’s shooting team.
She added on Instagram: “Broken is about the only way to describe the pain I’m feeling.”
The six affected athletes in Tokyo have been able to continue training, albeit being otherwise restricted to their individual rooms where they must also take their meals.
One of them, 400 hurdler Jessie Knight, told the Guardian: “Initially my heart sank because I thought I was going to be told I had it. To be honest there was panic. I called my coach straightaway and I said ‘please don’t call my family’, because I thought they would just go into panic mode too.”
Seven international athletes have now tested positive for the virus in the Japanese capital, with the latest additions, a Chilean taekwondo player and a Dutch skateboarder, becoming the first arrivals to be definitely ruled out of the Games as a result.
While athletes deemed close contacts are able to effectively continue training and competing as normal, those who test positive are required to spend a mandatory 10 days in isolation, which is likely to rule the majority affected out of competition.
England added: “We are a couple of days away from the opening ceremony and not one of those athletes, not one of the support staff, not one of the personnel engaging with Team GB has tested positive.
“So there should be huge confidence in our Covid mitigation measures, the testing regime that we adhere to, to not only support our Team GB but also the Japanese people and volunteers.
“We want everyone back home to buckle up. It won’t be an easy ride but it will be exciting and there will be some memories that I’m sure will live long.”
Nevertheless the nerves are evident in the fact that under 30 Team GB athletes are set to march at the opening ceremony on Friday, with many electing to stay away due to coronavirus concerns.