Coco Gauff shared that she tested positive for COVID-19, announcing that she would be withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics just days before the start of the Games. She was expected to headline the United States’ tennis team as the highest-ranked American player going to the Games.
“I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for COVID and won’t be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” Gauff said in her Twitter post. “I want to wish Team USA best of luck and a safe games for every Olympian and the entire Olympic family.”
The 17-year-old was ready to compete in her first Olympic Games, and her selection to the U.S. roster made Gauff the youngest Olympic tennis player since Mario Ancic made his Olympic debut at 16 in the 2000 Sydney Games.
INSIDE SCOOP IN TOKYO:Subscribe to our Olympic newsletter now
TEXT WITH US AT TOKYO OLYMPICS: Subscribe to texts, where we’ll be your official guide to the Games
“It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future,” Gauff wrote on Twitter.
Despite her age, the teenager stepped into a leading role on Team USA after several big names in tennis stepped away from the Olympics, citing injury and coronavirus concerns. Serena Williams confirmed she would not compete at the Games after an injury knocked her out of Wimbledon. Sofia Kenin, the highest-ranked American female tennis player at No. 4, pulled out of Tokyo due to COVID-19.
While top tennis players – like No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Japanese star Naomi Osaka – will compete in Tokyo, Gauff joins dozens of other athletes pulling out of the Summer Games. On the women’s tennis side, Bianca Andreescu (No. 5), Simona Halep (No. 9), Victoria Azarenka (No. 14) and Angelique Kerber (No. 22) decided against playing in the Olympics. Some of the biggest names in the men’s game, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, won’t be travelling to Tokyo either.
Gauff’s positive test also comes amid growing COVID-19 concerns at the Olympics, as thousands of athletes, staff and media members arrive in Tokyo this week.
Olympic organizers revealed Sunday that three residents in the Olympic Village, including two athletes, had tested positive for COVID-19 despite initially clearing arrival protocols. The South African Olympic Committee later confirmed that the three positive cases came from its men’s soccer delegation, and that the infected individuals – midfielder Kamohelo Mahlatsi, defender Thabiso Monyane and an unnamed video analyst – had been placed in isolation.
All told, 55 people connected with Tokyo 2020 had tested postive for COVID-19 as of Sunday, according to organizers. That figure does not include athletes like Gauff who tested positive before traveling to Tokyo.
Olympic stakeholders are required to take two COVID-19 tests before boarding their flights, and they are tested a third time upon arrival. The frequent testing is part of a complex set of countermeasures that organizers have touted as among the most thorough at any sporting event in the world.
The precautions have not assuaged fears in Tokyo, however, where the government has declared a state of emergency. Public polling indicates that a majority of Japanese residents would prefer that the Games not be held.