Just four days before the Olympic opening ceremony, a member of the high-profile U.S. women’s gymnastics team has tested positive for COVID-19, which could affect their chances in the Olympic Games. The affected gymnast is not Simone Biles. U.S. tennis player Coco Gauff has also tested positive and dropped out of the Games. TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie reports from Tokyo.
Kara Eaker, an alternate on the U.S. women's gymnastics team, tested positive for the coronavirus just days before the Tokyo Olympics were set to begin, officials said Monday.
The gymnast tested positive while she was at a training camp in Japan, according to her coach, Al Fong, the Associated Press reported. Fellow Olympic alternate Leanne Wong said Eaker, 18, was vaccinated against the coronavirus in May.
Both athletes were placed under quarantine.
Kara Eaker during Day 2 of the 2021 U.S. Women's Gymnastics Olympic Team Trials at the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, Mo., on June 27, 2021.
Olympic and city officials did not release the name of the athlete, but identified her as an alternate between the age of 10 and 19 who was training for the games in Narita, about 35 miles east of Tokyo.
A statement from USA Gymnastics said that the athlete tested positive Sunday and that she and another alternate member of the team were quarantined.
Mark Eaker told NBC affiliate KSHB that he was disappointed that his daughter's dream to compete has been ruined, but that he cannot wait to see her after her isolation period ends.
Tokyo — With just four days to go until the opening ceremony, the COVID-19 pandemic is casting an ever longer shadow over the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Officials have reported at least 12 new coronavirus cases connected with the Games since Sunday, including a U.S. gymnast and the first cases among athletes inside the Olympic village.
Several of the latest COVID-related losses will be felt sorely by Team USA.
On Monday, the Japanese city hosting the U.S. gymnastics team for pre-Games training said a female gymnast from the team had tested positive. The name of the athlete, who is in her teens, has been withheld by the city of Inzai, in Chiba Prefecture, where she had been training.
In a statement released on Monday, USA Gymnastics confirmed that a replacement athlete for the women's artistic gymnastics team had tested positive and that "the local government determined that the affected replacement athlete and one other replacement athlete would be subject to additional quarantine restrictions."
"Accordingly, 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," the team said.
While several athletes from overseas have tested positive for the virus since arriving in Japan, the gymnast was the first known COVID-19 case among Olympians from the United States. Another U.S. gymnast was isolating in her hotel room after health authorities determined that they had been in close contact with the young woman who tested positive.
The COVID-positive American gymnast was first suspected of being infected with the virus on Sunday, and another test at a hospital early on Monday confirmed the result, according to Inzai officials. The U.S. team of 10 athletes was being screened for the virus daily since their arrival in Japan on Thursday. They had only left their hotel for training using a designated bus, the city said.
Kara Eaker's dad has lost hope that the Team U.S. women's gymnastics team alternate will be able to compete in this month's Tokyo Olympics.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced on Monday that "an alternate on the women's artistic gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19," but would not name Eaker, 18, "out of respect for the individual's privacy."
The gymnast's coach Al Fong later confirmed the positive test to the Associated Press, saying that she tested positive while at a training camp in Japan. The coach added that the athlete had been fully vaccinated.
"There was hope up to this point, even as an alternate," Eaker's father Mark told KSHB of his daughter's chance at competition. "Now that the results have come back, that hope is gone."
Mark expressed that he's "most disappointed" for the gymnast because of how long she's had her eyes set on competing in the Games.
"I feel bad for her, because like I said, she's trained most of her life for this," he told the outlet.
Eaker's mother Katherine added that she's "incredibly thankful that we got her vaccinated" because she's asymptomatic.
"Everyone is telling us — all the medical people are telling us — that's to her benefit," she said of the vaccine. "If there's something I could tell everybody: Take this seriously."
The 18-year-old is one of four alternates on Team USA's women's gymnastics team. Fellow alternate Leanne Wong, 17, was also placed in quarantine due to possible exposure, per KSHB, although she tested negative.
Eaker is one of 58 reported cases of COVID-19 connected to the pandemic postponed event, CNN reported.
Of those 58, three athletes who are in the Olympic village have tested positive, according to the Associated Press. Those Olympic hopefuls include Czech Republic beach volleyball player Ondřej Perušič and two South African men's soccer players.
Beach volleyball player April Ross took home a silver medal in London and a bronze in Rio, and this year she’s aiming for gold in Tokyo. TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie talks to her in Tokyo. Despite the news that an alternate on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team has tested positive for COVID-19, Ross says that life in the Olympic Village “feels pretty normal. We’re testing every day … to be honest, it fells decently normal here in the Village.”
There is no greater stage in gymnastics than the Olympics. To represent oneself and one’s country at the Games is the pinnacle of achievement in the sport.
For all of the storied success of the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics program, only six Red Rocks have ever reached those heights. Missy Marlowe did, as did Cheryl Weatherstone, Crystal Gilmore, Gael Mackie, Daria Bijak and Nansy Damianova. That’s it, of the hundreds of athletes who’ve competed for the U.
Only one of those — Marlowe — did so while representing the United States, but she won’t be the only American for much longer.
When the qualification round begins at the Tokyo Olympics Sunday morning at midnight MT, two American gymnasts who have or will compete for Utah — MyKayla Skinner and Grace McCallum — will take to the floor with hopes of earning the chance to win a medal.
A third, Kara Eaker, was supposed be waiting in the wings, ready at a moment’s notice just in case, but news broke Monday that she tested positive for COVID-19 and will have to isolate for 8-14 days.
Skinner and McCallum will join Marlowe as the only Red Rocks to be U.S. Olympians, while Eaker will join Skinner, Corrie Lothrop and Theresa Kulikowski as the only Ute U.S. alternates.
The trio have made Utah gymnastics history, so it is little surprise that anyone and everyone involved with the Red Rocks is very excited.
“It is wonderful,” Utah head coach Tom Farden told the Deseret News. “It is a little surreal to have three athletes of that caliber in Tokyo.”
All three legitimately battled for Olympic berths at the U.S. Olympic trials in late June. At the close of the two-day competition, it was anyone’s best guess who would make the team, with McCallum finishing fourth overall, while Skinner closed in fifth and Eaker in seventh.
These Utah gymnasts are U.S. Olympians What MyKayla Skinner and Grace McCallum said after being named to the U.S. Olympic team McCallum, ultimately, was selected for the four-woman U.S. team, along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles, while Skinner earned one of two individual spots — Jade Carey had previously earned the other individual berth — with Eaker being named one of four alternates.
“I am so proud of myself that I did the best that I could do and that is really all that matters,” Skinner said.
The team selection proved controversial, with debates centering on McCallum making the four-woman team over Skinner or Skinner being awarded an individual spot instead of Kayla DiCello, Leanne Wong, Eaker or Emma Malabuyo. In the end, USA Gymnastics believed that McCallum and Skinner give the U.S. its best chance to medal in Tokyo, and medal often at that.
The United States women’s gymnastics team won’t be bunking in Tokyo’s Olympic Village.
A day before a member of the team tested positive for Covid-19, the coach of Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles confirmed that her athletes will be staying at a nearby hotel instead.
“It was also a decision that we all made together,” the coach, Cecile Landi, wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We know it isn’t ideal during a pandemic. We feel like we can control the athletes and our safety better in a hotel setting!”
USA Gymnastics said Tuesday that the squad had always intended to stay at a hotel instead of the sealed-off, 109-acre waterfront section of Tokyo that’s been reserved for the 11,000 athletes competing in the Games, which officially kick off Friday.
Landi’s tweeted confirmation came before alternate Kara Eaker tested positive at the training camp in Narita, some 30 miles east of Tokyo.
Both Eaker and fellow alternate, Leanne Wong, have been placed in quarantine.
“Tokyo 2020 is not in a position to comment on individual team’ performance decisions,” the organizing committee said in an email after NBC News reached out for comment Tuesday.
Game organizers had gone to great lengths to keep Covid out of the Olympic Village, but on Saturday the first confirmed infection was reported — a nonathlete from Japan.
Then, on Sunday, two athletes who had been staying in the village tested positive for Covid-19.
And on Tuesday, two Czechs who had also been living in the village tested positive — beach volleyball trainer Simon Nausch and player Ondrej Perusic. Both are isolating at an undisclosed location, the Czech team said in a statement.
The Olympic Games are being staged in the midst of the pandemic and in the face of broad opposition by half the country which fears an influx of foreigners will worsen the crisis. Just 22.4 percent of Japanese are fully vaccinated, according to the latest statistics.
Already dozens of people with ties to the Games — both Japanese and people from abroad — have tested positive for Covid-19, and a state of emergency was imposed in Tokyo this month to keep the virus from spreading even more.
But that means arriving athletes have had to overcome a battery of tests and other hurdles to compete in Tokyo, and there will be no fans in the stands to cheer them on once they do.
“We understand the public’s concern over the positive cases that have been reported so far, including the athlete’s village, and we will continue to handling these cases appropriately based on protocols we’ve established with the guidance of medical experts,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said Tuesday. “Since July 1, so far close to 30,000 people have arrived from overseas, of which 31 people tested positive for Covid, which means the infection rate is roughly 0.1 percent.”