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17 Aug, 2022 10:57

Unvaxxed US swimmer welcomed to Australia months after Djokovic row

Michael Andrew will be free to compete in the 'Duel in the Pool' event – half a year after Novak Djokovic's ugly deportation saga
Unvaxxed US swimmer welcomed to Australia months after Djokovic row

American swimmer Michael Andrew is set to compete for his country in the ‘Duel in the Pool’ clash against Australia in Sydney this week, after the unvaccinated star was able to take advantage of recently relaxed entry requirements. The situation has brought Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia back into focus.  

Andrew, 23, will line up for the US team in the highly anticipated showdown with rival swimming powerhouses Australia.

Returning after a seven-year hiatus, the ‘Duel in the Pool’ will see three days of events at indoor and outdoor venues, including the iconic Bondi Beach as well as the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.

But Andrew’s participation has brought particular scrutiny, after the swimmer faced heat from the media in his homeland last summer for appearing at the Tokyo Olympics while unvaccinated.

Defending his decision, Andrew said at the time that he “didn’t want to put anything in my body that I didn’t know how I would potentially react to.”

“As an athlete on the elite level, everything we do is very calculated. … I didn’t want to risk any days out, because there are periods where, if you take the vaccine, you have to deal with some days off,” said the Minnesota-born swimmer. 

It is reported that Andrew has not changed his stance since Tokyo, where he was part of the US team which won gold in the 4x100m medley relay.

Just two months ago, Andrew’s position would have ruled him out of entering Australia under the country’s strict vaccination requirement for non-citizens.

However, the authorities Down Under relaxed their rules in July, no longer requiring visitors to declare their Covid vaccination status or obtain a travel exemption.

“As more and more of us travel internationally and we get more confident in managing our risk of Covid, our airports are getting busier,” explained Australian Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil.

“Removing these requirements will not only reduce delays in our airports but will encourage more visitors and skilled workers to choose Australia as a destination.”

That has helped the likes of Andrew, but came too late for Serbian tennis star Djokovic.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner was infamously deprived of the chance to defend his title at the Australian Open back in January after being deported in a row over his vaccine status.

Despite heading to Australia with a medical exemption to compete in Melbourne after recovering from a coronavirus infection, Djokovic was detained at an immigration center in a drawn-out saga which saw him released, only to be detained again and ultimately thrown out of the country after the intervention of government officials.

Djokovic, 35, has since played at both the French Open and Wimbledon – winning the latter tournament – but finds himself barred from the US Open later this month because American border rules prevent entry for unvaccinated foreigners.

That situation has been heavily criticized by the likes of US tennis legend John McEnroe, who described it as “BS” and accused politicians of “getting in the way too much.”

Djokovic continues to train fully and is holding out hope of a late entry to the New York Grand Slam should the rules be relaxed, although that seems unlikely. The Serb has consistently said he is willing to forgo titles rather than relent and get vaccinated.

Djokovic could also be forced to miss the 2023 and 2024 Australian Opens, with deportation from the country typically carrying a three-year ban on reapplying for a visa. 

It has been suggested, however, that Australian officials could intervene to ensure he is allowed to attend next year’s event.