ParalympicsGB battle Tokyo Covid scare as two pinged athletes given special dispensation to compete

·3-min read
ParalympicsGB chef de mission Penny Briscoe says daily testing can keep British athletes safe in Japan
ParalympicsGB chef de mission Penny Briscoe says daily testing can keep British athletes safe in Japan

By Tom Harle in Tokyo

Two pinged Paralympians have been given permission to train and compete after Great Britain’s closest brush with Covid in Tokyo.

Team GB delivered 65 Olympic medals and no virus cases among athletes or staff from 20,000 tests - a tough act for ParalympicsGB to follow.

A member of the swimming squad’s support team tested positive after arriving in Japan ten days ago, with two athletes having to self-isolate as close contacts.

Both have been granted special dispensation to train and will get their chance to compete at the Games. They remain under extra measures in the Athletes Village including separate transport to venues, eating meals in their rooms and additional testing.

“We followed the same protocols as Team GB in the build-up,” said ParalympicsGB chef de mission Penny Briscoe, whose ParalympicsGB team have been able to train full-time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams thanks to National Lottery funding.

“We are testing daily and are following protocols that were developed in the UK and have kept athletes so well in the last 16 months.

“The process that’s in place is very robust and there’s 100% compliance from athletes in terms of being part of a safe, secure and successful Games.”

All British Paralympians have been offered the vaccine and take-up is believed to be in the region of 99%.

At the Olympics, six track & field athletes were close contacts of a confirmed Covid case on their flight to Tokyo. They trained and competed, with decidedly mixed results.

There are now five times as many Covid cases in Japan as there were when the Olympic started with 144 positives now linked to the Paralympics.

Briscoe said: “Some of the health impairments our athletes have do put them at greater risk.

“Each athlete has been subject to a risk assessment, especially those with higher support needs. As a team, there is respect for the health and wellbeing of everyone else.

“We are doing everything we can to protect the health and wellbeing of the team but also the volunteers, the workforce and the Japanese public.”

ParalympicsGB won 147 medals at Rio 2016, including 64 golds. It was an improvement on their tally at London 2012 and placed them second in the medal table.

Targets are softer this time with funding body UK Sport hoping for a haul of between 100 and 140, confident the eventual figure will be closer to the upper end of that range.

“The Olympics has reminded us of the power of sport to inspire and unite,” said UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday.

“There’s a glow that will already be around Great Britain in Tokyo and the Paralympians are going to create even more extraordinary moments and realise their own dreams.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen

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