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Teen tennis star Coco Gauff tests positive for COVID-19, will sit out Tokyo Olympics

Gauff, 17, had been expected to lead Team USA in tennis in what was to have been her first Olympics this month.
/ Source: NBC News

Tennis player Coco Gauff has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not compete in the Tokyo Olympics, where she had been expected to lead Team USA.

Gauff, 17, announced the news Sunday on social media, where she wished the rest of the team luck on the international stage. It would have been Gauff's first Olympic appearance after notable appearances in Grand Slam tournaments over the past few years.

2021 French Open - Day Eleven
Coco Gauff at the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros on June 9, 2021, in Paris.Adam Pretty / Getty Images

"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 wrote. "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."

The young tennis phenom had been expected to lead the 12-person Team USA squad, along with Jennifer Brady, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske in the women's singles division, the Olympic team announced this month.

"The entire USA Tennis Olympic contingent is heartbroken for Coco," the U.S. Tennis Association said in a statement Sunday. "We wish her the best as she deals with this unfortunate situation and hope to see her back on the courts very soon."

A number of big-name tennis stars will not take part in this summer's Olympic Games, including Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. It is also the first Olympics in 25 years without Serena Williams or Venus Williams.

Serena Williams told reporters last month that she would not be competing; she did not divulge why. She made the announcement before an injury forced her to drop out of Wimbledon during her first-round match.

It is unclear whether Gauff, who turned 17 in March, has been vaccinated; it is possible for vaccinated people to test positive with breakthrough infections. It is also unclear whether Gauff was staying in the Olympic Village when she tested positive.

Tokyo Olympic President Seiko Hashimoto announced Saturday that an organizer of the games who was staying at the Olympic Village had tested positive for COVID-19, a day after International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach reassured people that there was "zero risk" of the athletes' infecting anybody outside the sealed-off section of Tokyo.

Gauff is one of three athletes who announced infections Sunday, as two members of Team South Africa — soccer players Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi — were also said to have tested positive. A South African video analyst and a rugby coach were also infected, Team South Africa said in a statement.

"They have been tested on arrival, daily at the Olympic Village and complied with all the mandatory measures implemented to ensure the safety of the Games participants and the people of Japan, including keeping physical distancing and wearing masks at all times," the statement said.

The Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed a year because of the pandemic, will go on without spectators because of the fear of increased risk of infection. The opening ceremony is scheduled to begin Friday, and officials have urged against the traditional spectator crowds.

"Normally, we would all love to cheer for our athletes at the venues, but under the current circumstances, I ask that you cheer at home with your family or with people you meet on a regular basis," Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top COVID-19 adviser to the Japanese government, said last week. "Please refrain from cheering in large groups in public plazas, on the streets or in restaurants."

Infection rates are on the rise in Japan, which staved off the worst of the pandemic through social distancing and masking precautions, but it has vaccinated only about 26 percent of its population, Reuters reported.

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