An aggrieved Olympic surfing substitute forced into a futile race against time to catch a wave in Japan criticizes a competitor’s officials as “selfish” for not being transparent about the positive COVID-19 test of his rival who gave him cost a chance at the historic early sports summer games.
Angelo Bonomelli, 30, is the frustrated Italian surfer who missed the sport’s Olympic debut by a hair because Portugal’s Frederico Morais, 29, waited until the last minute to disclose his reported infection – despite the long list rules and restrictions on coronaviruses and the realities set for the Tokyo Olympics.
This meant that it had become impossible for Bonomelli or the next eligible replacement, Carlos Munoz of Costa Rica, to make it to Tokyo on time, which ultimately left a surprising hole in the surf zone on Sunday, the first day of the race. first men’s Olympic surf competition.
Bonomelli in an interview with The Associated Press said Portugal’s National Olympic Committee should have confessed earlier to the reported infection of a virus that has already killed more than 4 million people in one of the world’s worst health crises of modern history.
“I just think (it’s) not fair that I miss a lifetime opportunity,” Bonomelli said in a post. “There is negligence. “
Morais did not apologize in an email to the AP discussing the issue. He said he thought there was a chance he would get a clean COVID-19 test after testing positive weeks ago. He completed 10 days of isolation, showed no symptoms, and was fully vaccinated for over a month.
“I worked two years to earn my place,” Morais said. “For my part the transparency was total, I tried everything until the last minute, I ran against the clock and once I understood that there was no more chance for me to go I withdrew. More than transparency it was my dream that got ruined because I won my fair and square place. “
The Japanese government requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in the country. Bonomelli said Morais should have been required to report immediately because it can take weeks for the coronavirus to clear up after infection.
The Athlete and Officials Playbook is a 70-page document published by the IOC and Tokyo organizers detailing all of the health rules and protocol that each of the over 11,000 competitors must follow.
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It requires that athletes who test positive for COVID-19 before traveling to Japan “immediately notify your (COVID-19 liaison officer)”.
“Contact your (officer), who will record your symptoms, test results and close contacts, and notify Tokyo 2020 and agree on next steps,” demands the athlete’s rule.
Morais did not respond to questions from the PA regarding when he briefed Portuguese officials and the International Surfing Association, the sport’s Olympic governing body, is quickly distancing itself from the decisions of the National Olympic Committee, which ultimately takes responsibility for its athletes.
Morais was officially withdrawn from the competition on Saturday morning, less than 24 hours before the start of the first day of competition and a few hours before the final deadline to confirm a replacement.
ISA officials immediately offered it to Italy, which declined citing the impossible logistics of the trip, and then to Costa Rica, which agreed in the afternoon. The ISA also quickly informed the other six NOCs of the possibility that they might have a chance to place a replacement at the Games. NOCs were asked who, if any, could possibly be successful given the strict COVID-19 precautions in place.
In non-coronavirus times, one would generally expect replacements to travel with the entire team in the event of illness or injury, but the extended COVID-19 precautions and the risk of exposure itself this year in have kept a lot at home.
Other top substitutes, including famous surfer Kelly Slater, as well as Lakey Peterson for the women’s game, also chose not to bother with Japan, although USA Surfing said the two were ready to travel just to the case where.
Bonomelli said he wished the Italian team had prepared to take him as reinforcements, which could have saved the day.
“It’s mind-boggling how unfair it is,” Bonomelli said.
Surfers qualify individually through the global tournament rankings, although each country can only have two surfers per gender.
Bonomelli was the first eligible substitute for the coveted 20 spots in the men’s game after Morais announced on Friday night that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would miss the event. The ISA said it was unaware and also first learned of the reported infection through Morais’s personal Instagram post.
This prompted the ISA to confirm a last-minute substitution, although officials have made it clear that they will not adjust the competition schedule to accommodate Munoz’s trip. Costa Rica, the ISA said, accepted this reality but hoped the competition could be delayed by the weather – a bet on a quirk distinct from surfing.
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“It’s a real shame that Carlos couldn’t get to Tokyo in time for his first heats, but his NOC made the decision to accept the reallocated slot and send him to Tokyo fully aware of the risk for participation. of their athlete, ”said Robert Fasulo. , executive director of ISA.
The coronavirus problem was almost inevitable and long anticipated by Olympic organizers. On Monday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Japan among those accredited for the Tokyo Olympics was 153 as of July 1, organizers of the games said. The total includes 19 athletes who tested positive in Japan.
Among them is American beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb, who was left in limbo when he arrived when he tested positive for the coronavirus. Just hours before the deadline to submit names for the US Olympic list, Crabb’s fourth test came back positive and Tri Bourne replaced him.
Tri Bourne was driving back to Los Angeles after a family vacation in Las Vegas when he got a call from Crabb’s partner Jake Gibb asking him to fill in. Bourne flew to Japan, even as Crabb continued to take tests in the hopes it would come back negative, but it kept Bourne in place even at the last second.
“It’s been crazy for me, just like mentally trying to understand the excitement of becoming an Olympian, but also feeling for Taylor and understanding that this is his place… and I’m just honored how they accept me in. team and allowing me in, ”Bourne said in a social media post. “I never really stopped pursuing my Olympic career. I stayed in shape and just feel like I couldn’t be ready for this moment anymore. “
Bonomelli and Munoz weren’t so lucky.
Munoz and Costa Rican Olympic officials could not be reached immediately for comment.
Bonomelli said the Italian team chose not to accept his invitation to alternative surfing because he couldn’t immediately get an ‘official Olympic’ COVID-19 test, which he said he had to take in Rome before traveling to Japan.
Like many surfers, Bonomelli is a globetrotting wave hunter who currently lives in Costa Rica, where, he discovered, there is no accredited hospital that complies with Italian Olympic Committee rules.
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Bonomelli added that the ISA could also have delayed the competition given that the three-day competition takes place over an eight-day competition window, but the governing body chose to start on the first open day.
The ISA said Costa Rica officially requested a postponement as the first day of the competition was already underway. It was not received until after the round of Munoz.
The end result was a surreal spectacle adapted to times of pandemic: Munoz was on the scoreboard in the first and second rounds of the competition – a joyful and long-awaited opening day for surfing’s triumphant Olympic debut. But the surfer was nowhere to be found on Tsurigasaki Beach, about 60 miles east of Tokyo, as he would always have flown to Japan.