By JAMES ELLINGWORTH, AP Sports Reporter
Three weeks alone in a hotel room is not an ideal setting for a snowboarder preparing for the Olympics.
Patrizia Kummer, a Swiss athlete who won a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, is not vaccinated against the coronavirus, so she is spending 21 days in isolation in China before the start of the Winter Games in Beijing. February 4.
Even if vaccination rules are strict for the next Olympics, a few unvaccinated athletes will still participate.
Kummer said she didn’t want to influence anyone else about vaccination and thinks the quarantine requirement is fair, but also declined to discuss her “personal reasons” for refusing a vaccine.
“I had a bunch of reasons for the vaccine and a bunch of reasons against the vaccine, and in the end it was like, ‘No, I can’t do it,'” she said during a video call from his hotel in Beijing. room, adding that she “is not part of a risk group”.
The coronavirus can cause illness and death in young people, including athletes. Scientists believe that vaccinating as many people as possible will help slow the spread of the virus, which will help prevent the emergence of new variants and boost immunity more widely in the population.
When Kummer competes in her third Olympics on Feb. 8, she will be in China for nearly a month.
Some countries have refused to select unvaccinated athletes for their Olympic teams. Other athletes have the choice between vaccination or the 21-day quarantine. A few will compete unvaccinated without quarantine after obtaining exemptions for medical or legal reasons. This includes some young Russian athletes who were not eligible for home vaccines.
Kummer is staying in a Holiday Inn north of Beijing, far from the mountains where some Olympic events will take place. Food is brought to her door three times a day, there is a stationary bike for exercise, and she has brought a yoga mat, weights and fitness equipment.
When she’s not working out, Kummer visualizes the snowboard she’s leaning against the wall, watching TV shows or working on her plans to renovate a historic building at her home in Switzerland.
That’s life in what the International Olympic Committee calls “the dedicated facility” for unvaccinated athletes waiting to enter the “closed loop” of the Beijing Olympics.
“I’m a minimalist, so I don’t need much to live well. I don’t need much to be happy. So that’s not a problem,” Kummer said. “And I really like being alone.”
Kummer thinks she’s the only unvaccinated athlete in quarantine, but isn’t sure. The IOC declined to say if there were others, saying only that “nearly 100% of Olympic and Paralympic Village residents” will be vaccinated. Nearly 3,000 athletes are expected at the Beijing Games.
Austrian snowboarder Claudia Riegler is at an impasse with her Olympic team, who are threatening to leave her at home unless she gets the shot.
Kummer and Riegler are friends who bonded over a long drive through the Alps when they were both turned away from a World Cup race in Italy last month for not being vaccinated . They wanted to apply for side-by-side quarantine rooms in Beijing before Riegler’s dispute with his team became public, and they took an online fitness class together after Kummer arrived in China.
Austrian news agency APA reported that Riegler had until Sunday to get vaccinated or be dropped from the squad. The four-time Olympian does not want to be vaccinated after contracting the virus over the Christmas period, APA reported.
The United States and Canada last year imposed vaccination mandates for their Olympic teams. The Americans have said all of their Winter Olympians will be vaccinated, as will other countries including Britain, Sweden, France, Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
A few unvaccinated athletes will be able to compete without quarantine.
The IOC said a panel chosen by the Olympic body and China will rule on exemptions for medical or legal reasons. Examples include people who are allergic to vaccine ingredients or who take medications that suppress the immune system. Olympic organizers use the laws of an athlete’s home country as a guide in deciding exemptions.
Russian officials have estimated that seven athletes – including some figure skaters – will compete unvaccinated because they are under 18 and were not eligible for any home vaccines until recently.
A version of the Sputnik vaccine received government approval in November for use in children aged 12 to 17, but is not yet widely available. Russia does not allow people under 18 to receive any other vaccines.
In tennis, Novak Djokovic used a positive test dated December as proof he had recovered from the virus to earn an Australian Open bye despite being unvaccinated. He was eventually ordered to leave the country after a legal battle.
Proof of a previous infection could be enough to secure an exemption for the Beijing Olympics, but IOC guidelines say this would only work if the athlete’s home country has ruled that those infected are “not not eligible” for a vaccine. There is no evidence that anyone requested an exemption on these grounds.
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