Tokyo Olympics 2020: Team GB gold medal hope Amber Hill withdraws due to Covid as infection anxiety spreads
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One of Team GB's leading gold medal hopes was ruled out with Covid-19 on Wednesday as the Olympics was gripped by infection anxiety on the eve of the opening ceremony.
Amber Hill, the women's skeet shooting world No 1, was left "absolutely devastated" on a day of high apprehension which saw hundreds of athletes confirm they will not be attending the Tokyo 2020 curtain-raiser.
Just 30 of the 375 Team GB athletes will be at the ceremony, joining many other nations in having to dramatically scale-down numbers for the parade due to perceived risks of mingling and being pinged.
Hill was never due to be among them as she tested positive for Covid before boarding her flight out of the UK to Tokyo ahead of qualification for the women's skeet competition on Sunday. She became the third British Covid withdrawal after Dan Evans and Johanna Konta, but had a significantly better chance of winning her discipline than the tennis pair.
"There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now," said the 23-year-old. "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. Although I don’t have any symptoms, I will now isolate as per the Government guidance."
The crushing blow for Hill, who had posted a picture of her family decking their house in an "It's Coming Home" flag to wish her luck ahead of her departure, came after one of Team GB's most senior officials warned competitors' families to "buckle up" for a bumpy ride.
With the number of Games-linked Covid-19 cases in Japan climbing to 79, the 400m hurdler Jessie Knight confirmed she was one of the six British track and field athletes forced to self isolate earlier this week after coming into contact with a passenger on her flight.
Mark England, chef de mission of Team GB, said that there "should be huge confidence in our Covid mitigating measures". However, he added: "We want everyone back home to buckle up. It won’t be an easy ride but it’ll be exciting and fun and there’ll be some memories I’m sure will live long. I’d be pretty confident in 19 days’ time we’ll be celebrating a very very successful campaign for Team GB.”
England subsequently said "my heart goes out to Amber" after Hill's positive test was confirmed. "She is an incredibly gifted athlete and we dearly hope to see her again at a future Olympic Games," he added. Having finished sixth at the Rio 2016 Games, Hill looked certain to challenge for a podium spot in Tokyo after winning World Cup gold earlier this year.
"I would like to wish the best of luck to all of Team GB who are out in Tokyo, especially the shooting team who have supported me massively throughout my career," she said. "I will be back from this, but right now I need some time to reflect and take in what has happened."
Devastating news for @Amberjohill.
The shooter is forced to withdraw from the Olympic Games.
Hope to see you back in action soon, Amber ♥️— Team GB (@TeamGB) July 21, 2021
In Japan another eight new positive Covid cases were confirmed in people already here, bringing the total to 79. A Czech beach volleyball coach staying in the Olympic Village was one of the latest people to test positive a day after a player from the country was confirmed to have contracted the virus. Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs also confirmed she is pulling out of the Games, along with a Chilean taekwondo competitor.
A total of 376 athletes, and a further 22 reserve athletes, were due to be competing across 26 sports in Japan for Britain. However, in what will be the lowest attended opening ceremony in at least a century, there are suggestions that the likely congregation of 30 Britons could fall even further by Friday.
Telegraph Sport understands athletes had taken it upon themselves to tell Team GB chiefs they will not be attending on Friday. Britain has applied no pressure either way, given the potential risks of mingling with other nations in the days before competition.
The team will announce two flag bearers - a man and a woman - for the ceremony on Thursday, with diver Tom Daley among the leading contenders
Gracenote, a leading data and technology firm, this week predicted Britain will dip to fifth in the Olympic medal table but enjoy another gold rush and 52 medals in all in Tokyo. England, however, said he is not concentrating on medal targets, and is instead "excited to see not only the performance outcome but what legacy can this team leave".
"I don't know what the medal outcome is going to be," he added. "But what I would say is that this is a top top team that we're looking at. This is a top team that's going to hit the field of play. You go across every single athlete, every single team, every single sport, every single discipline, and you know, we can medal in all of those. It's very very competitive."
On Wednesday Team GB women's footballers got their campaign underway with victory over Chile, but their pre-matching taking of the knee was missed by IOC social media channels. One source close to the Games said organisers had banned social media teams from posting pictures of the gesture.
FOUR goals on Olympic debut?
It's safe to say that @VivianneMiedema is having a very good Wednesday! #StrongerTogether #Tokyo2020 https://t.co/9VxocPUw3u— Olympics (@Olympics) July 21, 2021
Vivianne Miedema scored four goals and the Netherlands routed Zambia 10-3 to open the Olympic women's soccer tournament on Wednesday.
Miedema, the all-time leading scorer in the Women's Super League, as well as the top career scorer for the Netherlands, had goals in the ninth, 15th, 29th and 59th minutes.
Lieke Martens added two goals for the fourth-ranked Netherlands, which advanced to the World Cup final two years ago in France but fell to the United States. The Tokyo Games are the Netherlands' first Olympics.
Barbra Banda scored all three goals for Zambia, the lowest ranked team in the field at No. 104.
Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman is stepping down after the Olympics to lead England in the next World Cup cycle. Wiegman will be replaced by Portland Thorns coach Mark Parsons at the conclusion of the National Women's Soccer League season.
This is also Zambia's first appearance in the Olympics.
The passwords and usernames of Olympics and Paralympics' ticket-buyers and volunteers have been stolen and shared on the internet, Kyodo News reported on Wednesday, citing government officials.
Games organisers are investigating the matter, it added. (
They must be so disappointed. Here was the home-made display they sent her off with:
Mexican Olympic baseball players Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis have tested positive for Covid-19 and been isolated at their rooms in the team hotel in Mexico City.
The Mexican Baseball Federation and the Mexican Baseball League issued a joint statement saying that the two had positive PCR tests when reporting on Sunday but are asymptomatic.
The federation canceled Monday night's training session at Alfredo Harp Helu Stadium, and PCR tests were given to all players and team coaching staff.
Velazquez, a 32-year-old right-hander, pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 2017-19 and Solis, a 32-year-old left-hander, pitched for the Washington Nationals from 2015-18.
A pair of goals from Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius spelled catastrophe for the U.S. women's national team, as the four-time Olympic gold medallists suffered a shock 3-0 defeat in their Tokyo 2020 debut.
Fifth-ranked Sweden put the pressure on almost immediately with three shots in the first eight minutes, while the four-time Olympic gold medallists showed little sign of the stellar unbeaten run they have enjoyed since 2019.
Blackstenius converted in minute 25, rocketing a header past U.S. keeper Alysssa Naeher with an assist from Sofia Jakobsson. The goalie had five saves in the first half as a dominant Swedish forward line thrashed the Americans' defences.
The addition of veteran midfielder Julie Ertz did little to revive the U.S. in the second half, as Blackstenius again scored in minute 54, and midfielder Lina Hurtig heaped on more pain to giver her side a three-goal cushion midway through the second half.
The match was personal for Team USA: The Swedes famously knocked the four-time World Cup winners out of the Olympic tournament on penalties in the quarter-finals in 2016. But their much hoped-for revenge in front of 48,000 empty seats inside the Tokyo Stadium was not to be.
The United States next faces New Zealand, while Sweden plays Australia in the group stage on Saturday
Brazil's Marta became the first woman footballer to score in five consecutive Olympic Games when she netted twice in Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of China at the Miyagi Stadium in Rifu.
Marta, widely regarded as the greatest women's footballer of all time with a record five World Player of the Year awards, scored her first Olympic goal in Athens in 2004 and, following Wednesday's brace, now has 12 Games strikes.
The 35-year-old opened the scoring in the Group F clash in the ninth minute when she arrived late in the box and pounced on a rebound. Debinha made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute.
Marta added her second with a low drive from a tight angle in the 74th minute before forward Andressa converted an 82nd minute penalty to leave China reeling.
Beatriz completed the rout in the 89th minute after latching on to a low cross to beat the goalkeeper with a first-time effort.
Their 43-year-old team-mate Formiga also wrote her name into the record books as the first women's football player to take part in seven Olympic Games.
World champions the United States are losing their opening game 3-0 to Sweden in the closing stages.
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