KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — The Malaysian badminton team are not taking any chances with their personal safety and health at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, lest they be unwittingly knocked out by an invisible virus.
Although the protocols put in place by the organisers to curb Covid-19 are relatively tight, the players are being extra cautious to keep themselves safe as they go in pursuit of their Olympic dreams.
Doubles player Aaron Chia said he is doing everything possible to stay safe, especially during training sessions at the competition venue at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza and the Games Village.
Aaron, 24, who is making his Olympics debut, said the team are strictly abiding by the standard operating procedure (SOP), such as practising physical distancing, frequently using hand sanitiser and avoiding crowded areas.
This is because any athlete who tests positive for Covid-19 will be forced to withdraw from the Olympics and will be considered as ‘Did Not Start (DNS)’, while close contacts also risk missing the competition.
“Here we are worried because there are many players, athletes from other countries. The procedures at the Games Village here are not as tight as during the three championships in Bangkok (two Thailand Open tournaments and the BWF World Tour Finals) early this year.
“Training sessions for several countries are held simultaneously although we train on different courts. So, we have to look after ourselves here,” he said in an audio clip made available to the media today.
The organisers yesterday they had detected 61 positive cases related to the Olympics out of thousands of tests conducted so far. They involved 33 Japanese and 28 participants from overseas.
Aaron said that on arrival at the Narita International Airport on Sunday, they all underwent saliva and RT-PCR tests before being allowed to enter the Games Village.
He has attended training at the venue, which is about one hour away from the Games Village.
“So we need to prepare two or three hours ahead (for training and competition) to board a bus to go there, which is quite far away,” said Aaron, the Thai Open runner-up and world number nine.
Aaron and his partner Soh Wooi Yik are drawn in Group D together with second seeds Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan of Indonesia, Choi Solgyu-Seo Seungjae of South Korea and Canada’s Jason Anthony Ho-Shue/Nyl Yakura.
The other players in the Malaysian badminton squad are All England men’s singles champion Lee Zii Jia, RIO 2016 mixed doubles silver medallists Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying, Soniia Cheah (women’s singles) and Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean (women’s doubles). — Bernama