Belgian Olympian freed from Beijing isolation facility after tearful plea (VIDEO)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has acted after a Covid test drama at the Beijing Winter Games 2022 saw Belgian Kim Meylemans make a tearful video plea on social media.
The skeleton racer documented her treatment in the Chinese capital where she was in isolation after testing positive for Covid when arriving in the country.
Originally told she could leave a quarantine hotel after isolating for three days and producing multiple negative PCR tests, the 25-year-old said she was not returned to the Olympic Village and instead taken to a different facility in an ambulance, where she broke down in tears while describing the situation.
"We thought this meant I was allowed to return to the Olympic Village and would be treated [at most] as a close contact," Meylemans explained.
"On the way to the village, we did not turn to the village, but the ambulance went to another facility where I am now supposed to stay for another seven days with two PCRs a day and no contact with anyone else.
"I am allowed to slide alone," Meylemans explained. "[But] we are not even sure I will ever be allowed to return to the village.
"Obviously, this is very hard for me, so I ask you all to give me some time to consider my next steps because I am not sure I can handle 14 more days and the Olympic competition being in this isolation," she admitted.
Meylemans confirmed that she had been moved into a quarantine hotel "after three tests with three very different results of which one [was] negative and one [was a] close call," which left her with "no other option than to leave the Olympic Village".
"I had Covid at the beginning of this month," Meylemans said.
"I missed two World Cup races for it. I worked my ass off to get back in shape. I was tested pretty much every day since. I had 12 negative PCR tests in the last two weeks but suddenly, upon arrival in China, I am considered positive again.
"Science proving that a PCR can detect [the virus] long past a person's infection seems to not matter at all. I'm beyond grateful for my Olympic Committee fighting for me and supporting me. It's not over and I'll keep fighting, but for my mental state I'll take a break from social media and am kindly asking the media to approach the BOIC (Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee) or my team for interviews instead of me," she signed off.
Reacting to the news, Global Athlete Director General Rob Koehler said on Twitter that Meylemans' treatment was "totally unacceptable" and that she "should never have to endure these conditions."
Previously, the movement had warned that the IOC hadn't provided details of quarantine facilities or the type of mental health and wellbeing support offered to those thrust into isolation with "little reason to trust the integrity of the process" in testing.
But later on Twitter again, the IOC's Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director Christian Klaue said that he was "relieved to hear that Kim Meylemans is now in the Olympic Village."
"We are glad that all the efforts led to the successful resolution of this situation. The IOC will continue to support Kim and the NOC (National Olympics Committees)," he vowed.
Relieved to hear that Kim Meylemans is now in the Olympic Village. We are glad that all the efforts led to the successful resolution of this situation. The IOC will continue to support Kim and the NOC. https://t.co/hl93mwU8JY— Christian Klaue (@ChKlaue) February 2, 2022
Meylemans issued a video update later on Wednesday confirming she was back in the Olympic Village.
“At 11.35pm there was a knock on my door and I was escorted to the Olympic village. I’m now in a wing that’s just isolation, but at least I’m back in the village,” said the skeleton star, who finished 14th on her Olympic debut in PyeongChang four years ago.
“I feel safe and I’ll be able to train a little better here. It seems like the video and the efforts of my Olympic Committee have really paid off.”
After official training begins on February 7 at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, Beijing 2022's women's skeleton competition gets underway on February 11.