Tennis player Coco Gauff has become the latest star athlete to drop out of the Tokyo Olympic games, which are set to begin later this week under unprecedented restrictions for an event designed to bring together a global audience.
On Sunday, Gauff confirmed via social media that she has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and thus will skip the competition in Tokyo. The 17-year-old prodigy said that representing her country at the Olympics “has always been a dream of mine,” and she expressed her hope that “there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future,” she wrote on Twitter.
Already delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo games are set to begin Friday and run through Aug. 8. The competitions will unfold largely without spectators as a precaution against turning the two-week celebration of athleticism into a global super-spreader event.
Other stars in the tennis world — notably Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal — are also sitting out the 2021 summer games.
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) July 18, 2021
Gauff has been playing tennis since she was 7. The Florida native made a huge splash in her Wimbledon debut at the age of 15 in 2019 when she beat one of her sports idols, Venus Williams, in the first round. Her meteoric rise made Gauff one of Team USA’s most talked-about players.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly complicated the execution of the summer games that had to be delayed by one year. Japan’s low vaccination rate — only about 20% of the population is fully vaccinated as of earlier this month, has amplified the health risk, prompting many athletes to stay away this time around.
The absence of young American stars such as Gauff and track sensation Sha’Carri Richardson, who was disqualified after testing positive for marijuana use, will only make it harder for NBCUniversal platforms to draw a big crowd with Olympics coverage.