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'It's crazy': Aussies in 'unacceptable' drama at Winter Olympics

Dean Hewitt and Tahli Gill, pictured here celebrating their victory over Canada at the Winter Olympics.
Dean Hewitt and Tahli Gill celebrate their victory over Canada at the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Aussie curlers Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt were at the centre of extraordinary drama at the Winter Olympics on Sunday when Gill tested positive for Covid-19 but was allowed to compete.

Hours after announcing they were leaving the Winter Olympics early due to Gill's positive test, the mixed doubles team claimed two historic victories.

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The Australians were headed for Beijing airport on Sunday morning after the AOC initially announced that they weren't able to play in their final two round robin games.

However an extraordinary backflip from officials allowed them to compete and they rushed back with justb minutes to spare.

Gill originally contracting Covid-19 in Canada in December, with her CT levels waivering between positive and negative during her time in Beijing.

She has been managed as a "close contact" throughout her time in Beijing, which means restricted movements and twice-daily testing.

It appeared they would have to forfeit their final two matches against Switzerland and Canada until an urgent meeting of the Medical Expert Panel (MEP) in Beijing.

The MEP examined Gill's CT values following PCR testing over the past 24 hours and determined they fell into an acceptable range, with the Chinese public health giving her and Hewitt the green light to play on.

Gill and Hewitt then earned Australia's first-ever win in curling at the Winter Olympics by beating Switzerland 9-6, the victory coming after seven straight losses.

The pair then won again later in the day, beating defending champions Canada 10-8.

"It's incredible - our lifelong dream is to come to the Olympics and to win is just great," Hewitt said.

"We're so pleased and happy with how we played and we've been in it all these games and we're so pleased we broke through and got the win."

Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt, pictured here in action at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt in action at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images) (Lintao Zhang via Getty Images)

Gill said the day started off as "stressful and disappointing" but she was thrilled to get a chance to play again for a win.

"It's been a whirlwind of emotions but I'm so incredibly grateful for the support from the medical team to confirm I wasn't infectious," Gill said.

“It was really devastating given that I wasn’t infectious.

“It has literally been the craziest, craziest 24 hours. My bags are still packed, I only just had time to pull out my uniforms.

“I was ruffling through my bags and ripping clothes out left, right and centre. I played with only one glove on - and it was the wrong one.”

However the news wasn't so good for alpine skier Katie Parker, who was unable to complete two negative tests and had to delay her planned departure for Beijing, forcing her out of Monday's giant slalom.

Officials lash out over 'unacceptable' conditions in Beijing

Meanwhile, organisers have been hit with further criticism over quarantine conditions for athletes, with German chef de mission Dirk Schimmelpfennig describing them as ‘unacceptable’.

Three-time Olympic champion Eric Frenzel has complained about facilities, while Russian biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova also hit out on social media.

“My stomach hurts, I’m very pale and I have huge black circles around my eyes,” Vasnetsova wrote in a post on social media.

“I want all this to end, I cry every day and I’m very tired.”

Organising committee general secretary Han Zirong promised to respond ‘effectively’, but IOC officials admitted conditions were ‘not good enough’ and demanded improvements.

“The conditions that have been created for isolation facilities have been addressed,” said Games executive director Christophe Dubi.

“It is very unfortunate that it affected an athlete and let’s be very thorough in the future to make sure that conditions, food and size of the rooms, are perfect for the athletes.”

with agencies

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