Winter Olympics rocked by superstar's devastating withdrawal

Pictured here, Austria's Marita Kramer in training before the Winter Olympics.
Gold medal favourite Marita Kramer has been forced to withdraw from the Winter Olympics after contracting Covid-19. Pic: Instagram

Austrian gold medal favourite Marita Kramer has suffered a devastating blow just days out from the start of the Winter Olympics after being ruled out of Beijing due to Covid-19.

The 20-year-old was considered short odds to win gold in the women's ski-jumping, but has been forced to withdraw from the Games due to a coronavirus infection.

'DEFLECTING ATTENTION': USA rejects China's Winter Games claim

'WE ARE DEVASTATED': Shock over death of figure skating star

Kramer has ruled the World Cup with seven wins and three more podium finishes from 12 season events, but tested positive at the weekend and again on Tuesday.

With the women's normal hill competition getting underway on Saturday, it leaves Kramer with insufficient time to provide the four negative test results required by China to enter the country after a Covid-19 infection.

Kramer becomes one of the highest-profile symbols of the shadow that has been cast over the Beijing Games by the pandemic.

Veteran US women's bobsled pilot Elana Meyers Taylor fears the same fate will befell her after the World Cup champion tested positive on Tuesday.

Meyers Taylor is already in China and revealed on social media: "After arriving to Beijing on [Thursday] January 27, on January 29 I tested positive for Covid-19. I am asymptomatic and currently at an isolation hotel - and yes I am completely isolated."

The only woman to win three Olympic bobsled medals for the US, with two silvers and a bronze already in her collection, Meyers Taylor remains hopeful of competing as bobsled competition doesn't begin until February 13.

"This is just the latest obstacle that my family and I have faced on this journey, so I'm remaining optimistic that I'll be able to recover quickly and still have the opportunity to compete," she wrote.

Seen here, USA's Elana Meyers Taylor competing at the 2021 IBSF World Championships in Germany.
USA's Elana Meyers Taylor competes in her first run during the 2021 IBSF World Championships in Altenberg, Germany. Pic: Getty

Covid-19 rates higher for athletes than stakeholders

The latest Winter Games bombshells come against the backdrop of test results showing athletes and team officials arriving in China are testing positive for COVID-19 at much higher rates than Olympic "stakeholders", a group which includes workers and media.

Figures released by local organisers showed 11 positive tests for COVID-19 among 379 athletes and officials arriving on Monday.

They have been taken into isolation hotels to limit the spread of the infection and could miss their events.

The positive test rate of 2.9 per cent for athletes and officials compared to 0.66 per cent for Olympic "stakeholders". There were 1,059 people in that category.

Fear of adding to that number led to the cancellation of a men's ice hockey exhibition game between Canada and Switzerland on Tuesday after Swiss Christian Marti tested positive for COVID-19.

Canada are staging a training camp in Switzerland before both countries' teams travel to Beijing.

On Monday five of 3,103 tests from the athletes-officials group already in the 'bubble' were positive compared to only one of more than 60,000 daily tests from "stakeholders".

A total of 200 positive tests for COVID-19 have now been recorded at the Olympics since January 23.

Among them was two-time Olympic hockey medallist Emma Terho.

"Even though this is not the start I envisaged, I was happy to see the protocols that Beijing 2022 has put in place are working well," Terho, an IOC member from Finland who sits on the Olympic body's executive board, wrote on social media.

with agencies

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.