Aussie world champion at centre of Covid drama at Commonwealth Games

Kelsey-Lee Barber, pictured here after winning javelin gold at the world championships.
Kelsey-Lee Barber celebrates after winning javelin gold at the world championships. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Australia's javelin world champion Kelsey-Lee Barber is still set to compete at the Commonwealth Games despite testing positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.

Barber became the first female athlete in history to win back-to-back gold medals in javelin at world championships level when she claimed the title in Oregon last week.

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However her participation at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (starting on Thursday) was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when she tested positive for Covid.

An Athletics Australia (AA) spokesperson revealed the 30-year-old tested positive on transit from the world championships in the US to the Games training camp in the south-east English town of Tonbridge.

But because she is asymptomatic, hopes are high that she should still be able to compete in Birmingham.

The Commonwealth Games Authority revealed this week that individual countries will be responsible for decisions on athletes who test positive for Covid-19.

It will therefore be up to the Australian team's medical personnel as to whether or not Barber can compete.

Helping her cause is the fact the women's javelin final isn't until the last day of competition on August 7.

Australian team chef de mission Petria Thomas said she's hopeful all 429 members of the team can compete in Birmingham despite a number of them dealing with Covid complications.

Kelsey-Lee Barber, pictured here with her gold medal at the world championships.
Kelsey-Lee Barber poses with her gold medal at the world championships. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The threat of Covid has prompted some Australians to avoid Thursday night's opening ceremony ahead of competition starting the following day.

"Covid unfortunately has been an ongoing challenge," Thomas told AAP on Wednesday.

"We're managing various cases as they pop up so our Covid team has done a mountain of work trying to make sure people can get to the Games and for our athletes to be able to get to the start line."

Barber has won bronze and silver at the past two editions of the Commonwealth Games, but claimed gold at the world championships and successfully defended the title she won in 2019.

It made her the first female athlete in history to win gold in javelin at back-to-back world championships.

Some Aussie athletes to avoid opening ceremony

Between 150 and 200 athletes from Australia's 430-strong team are expected to march at Thursday night's opening ceremony.

Australia's women's T20 cricketers are among those opting to miss the ceremony to minimise the Covid risk.

Star batter and wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy described the team's decision as "a bit disappointing" but understandable ahead of their campaign starting on Friday.

"We have taken quite a cautious approach, knowing that if one goes down there's potential that more in the team will go down," Healy told reporters on Wednesday.

Australia's team has been split into five locations in Birmingham, in part to mitigate the risks of Covid.

Organisers had planned a single athletes village but construction was delayed because of Covid-related supply issues.

Australia's women's T20 cricket team, pictured here in action.
Australia's women's T20 cricket team won't attend the opening ceremony. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer-ICC/ICC via Getty Images) (Kai Schwoerer-ICC via Getty Images)

The Australians have been banned from supporting their teammates at other events and been ordered to wear face masks when not in their rooms or exercising.

Strict hygiene protocols are also being enforced, with Thomas confident Australia has done all it can to prevent any potential Covid outbreaks.

"We are probably doing more than potentially any other country here to try and keep our team members infection free," she said.

"We have got an amazing COVID response team that is working around the clock to try and manage the cases that have popped up.

"Certainly our testing protocols have been really beneficial to catch people who were testing positive seven to 10 days before arriving.

"And that has really assisted us to manage those people and make sure that they can get here. They might be delayed in some cases but that also minimises the risk to the rest of the team."

with AAP

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