Sparring partner of Taiwanese players at All England tests positive

Written by Shivani Naik
| Mumbai |

Updated: March 21, 2020 9:05:04 am

All England Open women’s singles champion, Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan, is now in quarantine. (Reuters Photo)

Danish shuttler Hans-Kristian Vittinghus who had drawn the badminton world’s attention to exposure risks to top players and spectators at the All England Championships last week prompting suspension of tournaments, on Friday pointed to another glum piece of news, to show that the Birmingham meet might’ve posed a grave risk.

While officials did not confirm the athlete or the sport, the European itinerary in a Taiwanese news update, exactly matched the description of a suspected teenaged sparring partner of the Chinese Taipei squad that played at All England. This included finalists Tai Tzu Ying and Chou Tien Chen.

Quoting Taiwan News, Vittinghus, tweeted, “So a Taiwanese athlete who was in Spain at the time of the Barcelona Masters, in Germany (where the Taiwanese badminton players had training) the following week and then in UK during the time of All England — has tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home…”

Taiwan News reported that the teenager was the province’s “first athlete diagnosed with coronavirus who had visited 4 European countries.”

It was on a day that the province reported it’s largest single-day spike of 27 new cases, many of whom had travelled in from abroad.

He was not a member of the national team, but had been in training as a backup, according to some media reports.

The national team was staying in quarantine at a training center in north Taiwan, while the young man was taken to hospital. He stayed in Spain from Feb. 16 through 24, in Germany from Feb. 25 through March 7, in Great Britain from March 8 through 15, and transited in France on March 16-17 before heading home to Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) said,” reported.

According to the website, “the day after his return, his eyes began to hurt and he felt a headache, leading him to seek medical care. According to the CECC, he did not go back to school, though 33 people he had been in contact with were asked to stay in home quarantine.”

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Several shuttlers including Indians Saina Nehwal, P Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram besides a bunch of Danes, had raised the issue of the All England carrying on as if nothing was wrong, even while requesting the world body BWF to cancel the rest of the tournaments in the next 6 weeks even as Covid-19 cases in UK rose exponentially overnight.

However, the All England went ahead stubbornly, witnessing some fine matches, but risking health of players, support staff and spectators who thronged the arena as the tournament refused to go behind closed doors. It was tempting fate, almost and reported that champion Tai Tzu Ying is now in quarantine.

A CECC press conference offered some details of the case.

“The 114th case was a male who moved into his native country in his teens. He had a history of travel in Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom. He was a contestant (sic),” said, specifying the dates that coincide with the travel sked of the Taiwan team. Taiwan News said that Zhuang Renxiang, deputy team leader of CECC, had confirmed, “It is understood that this physical education student is a national team’s sparring practitioner.”

The report stated that while it was understood that noone in the national team was a teenager, nor did the case No 114 stay with the squad in the same hotel room, he had taken the shuttle bus with the team (” …but he also took the official team (transport) with players from all over the world. Shuttle bus between the stadium and the hotel.” Sic).

Renxiang was asked about Tai Tzu Ying specifically, and said, “She (Dai Zhiying, her Chinese name) would have to be quarantined at home”.

Badminton’s most prestigious tournament – which screened no one during the playing week keeping in line with UK’s insistence on carrying on, might well have risked the biggest names in shuttle.

While 7 Indians opted out, top names PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, K Srikanth and Ashwini Ponappa and rookie Lakshya Sen had played in Birmingham.

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