Tokyo Olympics: U.S. women's gymnastics alternate tests positive for COVID-19 in Japan

·4-min read

An alternate on the U.S. women's gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19 days before the Opening Ceremony is set to take place for the Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said Monday. 

Kara Eaker, 18, tested positive on Sunday while in Japan, coach Al Fong confirmed to Justin Surrency of WHO TV in Des Moines, Iowa, and USA Today Sports. The gymnast's identity has not been identified by USA Gymnastics nor the USOPC. Eaker said at the U.S. Olympic trials she had been vaccinated. 

Another alternate, Leanne Wong, has to quarantine as a close contact. The two train together at GAGE outside of Kansas City. Fong told USA Today he and his wife and co-coach, Armine Barutyan-Fong, do not have to isolate but will "stay with our athletes throughout." 

The Opening Ceremony is Friday and the gymnastics women's qualifications are scheduled for Sunday. 

U.S. gymnasts arrived in Japan last week

Team USA gymnastics
The U.S. women's gymnastics team is made up of six competitors and four alternates available to step in if needed. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The U.S. team arrived in Japan on Thursday and is training for the games in Narita, about 35 miles east of Tokyo, per city officials cited by NBC News. The team stayed in travel accommodations and practice venues after arrival, but has not spent time in the city, an official said. 

"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 said in a statement. "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."

The six-woman gymnastic team is Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey. They are all vaccinated, per the AP. 

There are four alternates who travel and step in if needed: Eaker, Wong, Kayla DiCello and Emma Malabuyo. 

USA Gymnastics taking precautions 

USA Gymnastics said they followed strict protocols while the 10 athletes were training together and that Japanese chaperones monitored them to make sure COVID-19 regulations were being followed, per USA Today Sports.

The team and the alternates have been training in Tokyo in separate groups, the AP reported. Other precautions included the alternates riding in the back of the bus with their coaches while the six-member delegation rode in the front with their coaches. 

Masks are worn at all times for those at the games, except when eating, training or in rooms. USAG said athletes and coaches will not each have their own rooms at the hotel as further precaution. 

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

USA Gymnastics dealt with a "false positive" over the weekend, per the Associated Press, but ensuing tests were negative.

COVID-19 at Tokyo Olympics 

The gymnast is the first U.S. team member to test positive after arriving in Japan. But positive tests are already keeping U.S. athletes from attending the games at all. 

Coco Gauff announced Sunday she would not be able to compete at her first Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19. Bradley Beal was ruled out for the Team USA men's basketball squad because of health and safety protocols for COVID-19. 

Meanwhile case numbers in Tokyo continue to rise. There were 727 new cases reported on Monday by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, marking the 30th consecutive day that cases were higher than the previous week. Case numbers hit a six-month high early last week. 

The Olympics begin on Friday amid a state of emergency in the city and with no fans in most of the venues. The women's gymnastics team begins its quest for gold on Sunday. 

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