Czech beach volleyball players Markéta Sluková-Nausch and Barbora Hermannova are coming to terms with being ruled out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as the European team grapples with a growing Covid-19 problem.
Sluková-Nausch’s positive result was announced on Thursday, as she became the fifth member of the Czech Olympic team to have tested positive for Covid-19 in Tokyo.
“We cried, then we swore, then we cried again,” said Sluková-Nausch, whose positive test also rules out her playing partner Hermannová from the Games.
“I am just hoping that no other athletes will follow us, because I think that something like this is a nightmare for any athlete, for any Olympian, who gets this far, this close to the Olympic competition,” added Sluková-Nausch.
Later on Thursday, a sixth member of the Czech team – cyclist Michal Schlegel – tested positive, according to the Czech Olympic Committee (COC), which has launched an investigation into the alleged breaking of Covid-19 rules on a charter flight from Prague to Tokyo at the end of last week.
Simon Nausch, who is Sluková-Nausch’s coach and husband, also tested positive on Tuesday.
“I know that many much worse things are happening around the world right now, but truthfully, in our own sporting micro-world, the world we have lived in and are living in now, it is extremely sad for Bára [Barbora Hermannova] and I that our journey to Tokyo, the journey that was meant to be a pinnacle, had to end in this way,” said Sluková-Nausc in a statement provided to CNN by her representative.
Tokyo was due to be the third Games for Sluková-Nausch and the second for Hermannová. The pair were scheduled to open the Olympic women’s beach volleyball tournament against Japan on Saturday, July 24.
‘It hurts terribly’
Following a report by the Czech online news site Seznam Zpravy, the COC confirmed that the first member of the Czech delegation to Tokyo to test positive for the virus was one of the team’s doctors, Vlastimil Voracek.
Voracek tested positive after the team’s arrival in Tokyo. His previous test, taken the day before departing for Tokyo, was negative.
Following a report in Czech media that he had not been vaccinated against Covid-19 despite being eligible for the shot and despite the fact that the COCe “strongly encouraged” all participants to get vaccinated, Voracek issued a statement in which he denied breaking any rules.
“The organizers stipulated their rules for athletes and those accompanying them. Vaccination was voluntary,” he said in the statement quoted by the Czech official news agency CTK.
Voracek travelled to Tokyo from Prague on a special chartered flight last week. Five other passengers from the flight, including four Czech athletes, have since tested positive for the virus.
The statement from Voracek came just as the COC announced cyclist Schlegel had tested positive for Covid-19 and won’t be able to participate in his race.
The result of the COC’s investigation into the alleged breaking of Covid-19 rules on a charter flight from Prague to Tokyo will be published within 14 days.
Sluková-Nausch said she discovered she traveled on a flight with an individual who tested positive for Covid-19 right after her arrival in Tokyo.
“I was tested roughly eight times in the past 24 hours, some results were positive, some were ambiguous, some were negative, but unfortunately, the final verdict is that I’ve tested positive and that means that we will not be able to play at the tournament,” the 33-year-old added.
“It hurts terribly and I haven’t processed this whole situation yet and I don’t know how to deal with it all.”
The 33-year-old is the fifth member of the Czech Olympic team to have tested positive alongside Pavel Širuček and men’s beach volleyball player Ondřej Perušič.
Filip Neusser, the Chairman of the Czech National Sport Agency, the government body that is in charge of sport funding, criticized the COC and said the investigation must not be run by the committee itself.
“I have already agreed this with [the Czech health minister] Adam Vojtech, the investigation should be lead by experts from the centre for disease control,” Neusser said in a Tweet.