Team GB gold medal hope Amber Hill withdraws due to Covid as infection anxiety spreads

·24-min read
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Team GB gold medal hope Amber Hill withdraws due to Covid as infection anxiety spreads - PA
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Team GB gold medal hope Amber Hill withdraws due to Covid as infection anxiety spreads - PA

One of Team GB's leading gold medal hopes was ruled out with Covid-19 on Wednesday as the Olympics was gripped by infection anxiety on the eve of the opening ceremony.

Amber Hill, the women's skeet shooting world No 1, was left "absolutely devastated" on a day of high apprehension which saw hundreds of athletes confirm they will not be attending the Tokyo 2020 curtain-raiser.

Just 30 of the 375 Team GB athletes will be at the ceremony, joining many other nations in having to dramatically scale-down numbers for the parade due to perceived risks of mingling and being pinged.

Hill was never due to be among them as she tested positive for Covid before boarding her flight out of the UK to Tokyo ahead of qualification for the women's skeet competition on Sunday. She became the third British Covid withdrawal after Dan Evans and Johanna Konta, but had a significantly better chance of winning her discipline than the tennis pair.

"There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now," said the 23-year-old. "After five years of training and preparation, I’m absolutely devastated to say that last night I received a positive Covid-19 test, meaning I’ve had to withdraw from Team GB’s shooting team. Although I don’t have any symptoms, I will now isolate as per the Government guidance."

The crushing blow for Hill, who had posted a picture of her family decking their house in an "It's Coming Home" flag to wish her luck ahead of her departure, came after one of Team GB's most senior officials warned competitors' families to "buckle up" for a bumpy ride.

With the number of Games-linked Covid-19 cases in Japan climbing to 79, the 400m hurdler Jessie Knight confirmed she was one of the six British track and field athletes forced to self isolate earlier this week after coming into contact with a passenger on her flight.

Mark England, chef de mission of Team GB, said that there "should be huge confidence in our Covid mitigating measures". However, he added: "We want everyone back home to buckle up. It won’t be an easy ride but it’ll be exciting and fun and there’ll be some memories I’m sure will live long. I’d be pretty confident in 19 days’ time we’ll be celebrating a very very successful campaign for Team GB.”

England subsequently said "my heart goes out to Amber" after Hill's positive test was confirmed. "She is an incredibly gifted athlete and we dearly hope to see her again at a future Olympic Games," he added. Having finished sixth at the Rio 2016 Games, Hill looked certain to challenge for a podium spot in Tokyo after winning World Cup gold earlier this year.

"I would like to wish the best of luck to all of Team GB who are out in Tokyo, especially the shooting team who have supported me massively throughout my career," she said. "I will be back from this, but right now I need some time to reflect and take in what has happened."

In Japan another eight new positive Covid cases were confirmed in people already here, bringing the total to 79. A Czech beach volleyball coach staying in the Olympic Village was one of the latest people to test positive a day after a player from the country was confirmed to have contracted the virus. Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs also confirmed she is pulling out of the Games, along with a Chilean taekwondo competitor.

A total of 376 athletes, and a further 22 reserve athletes, were due to be competing across 26 sports in Japan for Britain. However, in what will be the lowest attended opening ceremony in at least a century, there are suggestions that the likely congregation of 30 Britons could fall even further by Friday.

Telegraph Sport understands athletes had taken it upon themselves to tell Team GB chiefs they will not be attending on Friday. Britain has applied no pressure either way, given the potential risks of mingling with other nations in the days before competition.

The team will announce two flag bearers - a man and a woman - for the ceremony on Thursday, with diver Tom Daley among the leading contenders

Gracenote, a leading data and technology firm, this week predicted Britain will dip to fifth in the Olympic medal table but enjoy another gold rush and 52 medals in all in Tokyo. England, however, said he is not concentrating on medal targets, and is instead "excited to see not only the performance outcome but what legacy can this team leave".

"I don't know what the medal outcome is going to be," he added. "But what I would say is that this is a top top team that we're looking at. This is a top team that's going to hit the field of play. You go across every single athlete, every single team, every single sport, every single discipline, and you know, we can medal in all of those. It's very very competitive."

On Wednesday Team GB women's footballers got their campaign underway with victory over Chile, but their pre-matching taking of the knee was missed by IOC social media channels. One source close to the Games said organisers had banned social media teams from posting pictures of the gesture.

01:13 PM

Miedema doing what she does best

Vivianne Miedema scored four goals and the Netherlands routed Zambia 10-3 to open the Olympic women's soccer tournament on Wednesday.

Miedema, the all-time leading scorer in the Women's Super League, as well as the top career scorer for the Netherlands, had goals in the ninth, 15th, 29th and 59th minutes.

Lieke Martens added two goals for the fourth-ranked Netherlands, which advanced to the World Cup final two years ago in France but fell to the United States. The Tokyo Games are the Netherlands' first Olympics.

Barbra Banda scored all three goals for Zambia, the lowest ranked team in the field at No. 104.

Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman is stepping down after the Olympics to lead England in the next World Cup cycle. Wiegman will be replaced by Portland Thorns coach Mark Parsons at the conclusion of the National Women's Soccer League season.

This is also Zambia's first appearance in the Olympics.

12:36 PM

A worrying development

The passwords and usernames of Olympics and Paralympics' ticket-buyers and volunteers have been stolen and shared on the internet, Kyodo News reported on Wednesday, citing government officials.

Games organisers are investigating the matter, it added. (

12:09 PM

Amber Hill's family had gone to so much trouble too

They must be so disappointed. Here was the home-made display they sent her off with:

Amber Hill - amberjohill
Amber Hill - amberjohill

11:32 AM

More positive tests

Mexican Olympic baseball players Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis have tested positive for Covid-19 and been isolated at their rooms in the team hotel in Mexico City.

The Mexican Baseball Federation and the Mexican Baseball League issued a joint statement saying that the two had positive PCR tests when reporting on Sunday but are asymptomatic.

The federation canceled Monday night's training session at Alfredo Harp Helu Stadium, and PCR tests were given to all players and team coaching staff.

Velazquez, a 32-year-old right-hander, pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 2017-19 and Solis, a 32-year-old left-hander, pitched for the Washington Nationals from 2015-18.

10:38 AM

Full time result: Sweden 3 USA 0

A pair of goals from Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius spelled catastrophe for the U.S. women's national team, as the four-time Olympic gold medallists suffered a shock 3-0 defeat in their Tokyo 2020 debut.

Fifth-ranked Sweden put the pressure on almost immediately with three shots in the first eight minutes, while the four-time Olympic gold medallists showed little sign of the stellar unbeaten run they have enjoyed since 2019.

Blackstenius converted in minute 25, rocketing a header past U.S. keeper Alysssa Naeher with an assist from Sofia Jakobsson. The goalie had five saves in the first half as a dominant Swedish forward line thrashed the Americans' defences.

Sweden's forward Stina Blackstenius (L) celebrates with Sweden's forward Fridolina Rolfo after scoring the second goa - AFP
Sweden's forward Stina Blackstenius (L) celebrates with Sweden's forward Fridolina Rolfo after scoring the second goa - AFP

The addition of veteran midfielder Julie Ertz did little to revive the U.S. in the second half, as Blackstenius again scored in minute 54, and midfielder Lina Hurtig heaped on more pain to giver her side a three-goal cushion midway through the second half.

The match was personal for Team USA: The Swedes famously knocked the four-time World Cup winners out of the Olympic tournament on penalties in the quarter-finals in 2016. But their much hoped-for revenge in front of 48,000 empty seats inside the Tokyo Stadium was not to be.

The United States next faces New Zealand, while Sweden plays Australia in the group stage on Saturday

10:26 AM

A winning start for Brazil

By Reuters

Brazil's Marta became the first woman footballer to score in five consecutive Olympic Games when she netted twice in Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of China at the Miyagi Stadium in Rifu.

Marta, widely regarded as the greatest women's footballer of all time with a record five World Player of the Year awards, scored her first Olympic goal in Athens in 2004 and, following Wednesday's brace, now has 12 Games strikes.

The 35-year-old opened the scoring in the Group F clash in the ninth minute when she arrived late in the box and pounced on a rebound. Debinha made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute.

Brazil's Beatriz celebrates scoring her side's 5th goal  - AP
Brazil's Beatriz celebrates scoring her side's 5th goal - AP

Marta added her second with a low drive from a tight angle in the 74th minute before forward Andressa converted an 82nd minute penalty to leave China reeling.

Beatriz completed the rout in the 89th minute after latching on to a low cross to beat the goalkeeper with a first-time effort.

Their 43-year-old team-mate Formiga also wrote her name into the record books as the first women's football player to take part in seven Olympic Games.

10:07 AM

An early shock in the women's football

World champions the United States are losing their opening game 3-0 to Sweden in the closing stages.

09:54 AM

A familiar celebration

09:33 AM

Team GB off to a winning start

Ellen White scored twice as they eased to a 2-0 victory over Chile in Sapporo. Live reaction here with Molly McElwee.

Solid performance for GB - great start and insight into the kind of team they are going to be after a lot of unknowns ahead of the tournament.

Scots Little and Weir were key in midfield, while Bronze was instrumental in the goals. Big credit to White for her finishing too.

The defence will likely be challenged a lot more against Japan and Canada, but this will give them confidence ahead of those group games.

09:21 AM

The Games are heading back to Australia

09:14 AM

The final hurdle

By Reuters

American Sydney McLaughlin is taking a fighting spirit into the 400 metres hurdles in Tokyo.

The 21-year-old broke the world record last month as she won the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon in 51.90 seconds, becoming the first woman to finish the event in under 52 seconds, after joining forces in 2020 with coach Bob Kersee.

She points to Kersee, who famously trained his six-time Olympic medal-winning wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, as the biggest influence in that triumph. She told reporters in the lead-up to the Games that he put her in the mindset of a prize fighter, educating her in the world of boxing as inspiration.

"He was like, you know, this isn't the 'Thrilla in Manila,' this is the 'Queen in Eugene' and telling me that right before I went to the final race," said McLaughlin, the silver medal winner in the 400m hurdles at the 2019 World Championships.

08:53 AM

"I am heartbroken"

Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs expressed her heartache after testing positive for COVID-19, ruling her out of the Olympic Games, and took solace in the fact that her teammates would still be able to compete.

"I am heartbroken," she said on her Instagram account. "Luckily we've been following the protocols so my fellow skateboarders still get to shine bright."

The Dutch Olympic team said Jacobs had been placed in a 10-day quarantine. In a statement, it added that its medical advisers have continuously been in contact with the athlete.

"It is Candy's worst nightmare," the delegation's Chef de Mission Pieter van den Hoogenband said in the statement.

"TeamNL and Candy will do everything to respect the rules here and follow all the necessary instructions from Tokyo2020. We are very pleased that the rest of the team can continue in the Olympics," he added.

Skateboarding is making its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

08:33 AM

Confirmed: Brisbane to host 2032 Olympics

The Australian city of Brisbane will host the 2032 summer Olympics after the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday approved the recommendation of its executive board.

Brisbane becomes the third Australian city to get the Games after Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000.

08:10 AM

Ellen White has given Team GB the lead against Chile

They are thoroughly dominant in Sapporo as half time approaches. You can follow the game with Molly McElwee on our live blog here.

08:08 AM

Frazer Clarke backed to continue Team GB's Olympic Boxing success


Joe Joyce has backed Frazer Clarke to continue Great Britain's proud Olympic record in the super-heavyweight division since the turn of the century, saying: "His time is now."

Every British entrant since 2000 in the highest weight category has at least finished in the podium places at a Games, with Audley Harrison starting that run as he collected a gold medal at Sydney 21 years ago.

Anthony Joshua emulated Harrison at London 2012, either side of David Price taking bronze at Beijing 2008 and Joyce having to settle for silver after losing a controversial split decision to France's Tony Yoka at Rio 2016.

 Great Britain's Frazer Clarke during day four of the European Games 2019 i - PA
Great Britain's Frazer Clarke during day four of the European Games 2019 i - PA

Clarke, who has missed out on qualification for the last two Olympics but did travel to Brazil as a sparring partner, has some big shoes to fill in Tokyo although he has been tipped to succeed by his predecessor Joyce.

"I believe he's got the abilities, he's hungry and he's waited long enough," said Joyce, who takes on Carlos Takam on Saturday and is poised to face the winner of Joshua-Oleksandr Usyk after becoming the WBO mandatory challenger.

"I think his time is now and he'll be looking to deliver and perform."

07:29 AM

The Blue Impulse

Japanese pilots drew the five Olympic rings over Tokyo on Wednesday in a practice flight ahead of a similar manoeuvre which is scheduled for later this week to mark the official start of the Tokyo Games.

The Japanese air force's aerobatic demonstration squadron, Blue Impulse, flew over the capital shortly after noon and drew the Olympic symbol with white smoke near the national stadium, with people on the ground waving and taking smartphone photos.

"The sky is blue today so I was able to clearly see the five white contrails, so it was exhilarating," said Noriko Hoshino, a 44-year-old office worker.

The opening ceremony is slated for Friday evening, but the softball and soccer competitions are already underway.

The Blue Impulse aerobatic demonstration team of Japan Air Self-Defence Force forms - AFP
The Blue Impulse aerobatic demonstration team of Japan Air Self-Defence Force forms - AFP

On Friday, the rings will bear the original colours of blue, yellow, black, green and red, an official at the Air Self-Defence Force said.

The Blue Impulse first drew the interlocking rings over central Tokyo as part of the opening ceremony of the 1964 Olympics in the city.

For many in Japan, the Olympic symbol, drawn in a clear, autumn sky with precision, was one of the most memorable moments from the sporting event held to show the world the country's recovery from World War Two.

07:10 AM

Well there is one thing missing...

06:55 AM

Team GB vs Chile women's football

Kicks off in around 35 minutes time. Follow all the build-up and action with Molly McElwee on our live blog.

06:42 AM

There's the Brazil team who will play China later

06:38 AM

Rising cases


The head of the World Health Organization says the Tokyo Olympics should not be judged by how many COVID-19 cases arise because eliminating risk is impossible.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told an International Olympic Committee meeting that how infections are handled is what matters most.

"The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted," he said.

The number of Games-linked COVID-19 cases in Japan this month was 79 on Wednesday, with more international athletes testing positive at home and unable to travel.

Teammates classed as close contacts of infected athletes can continue training and preparing for events under a regime of isolation and extra monitoring.

06:32 AM

Tom Garry with the Team GB team news

06:30 AM

'Can this team win the gold medal? Yes'

Three Team GB stars sat down with Telegraph Sport's Tom Garry before Tokyo: Wales’ Sophie Ingle, Scotland’s Kim Little, and England’s Nikita Parris. You can read our exclusive interview here.

“That can be flipped around - maybe other teams don’t quite know what we’ll do or what to expect from us. There are pros as well as cons. With the group of players that we have, we’ve got every chance."

06:24 AM

The US also make a winning start in the softball

The United States has begun its quest to regain the Olympic softball gold medal with a dominating performance from Cat Osterman, who lost the championship game 13 years ago.

She pitched one-hit ball over six innings and struck out nine to beat Italy 2-0 Wednesday.

Michelle Moultrie singled in a run in the fourth inning for the top-ranked U.S., which lost the title to Japan 3-1 at the 2008 Beijing Games. Janie Reed, the wife of Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Jake Reed, added a sacrifice fly.

US starter Catherine Osterman (L) pitches during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games softball opening round  - AFP
US starter Catherine Osterman (L) pitches during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games softball opening round - AFP

Osterman, a 38-year-old left-hander, walked none on a humid afternoon with a 94-degree temperature that was even more steamy on the artificial turf. The last remaining player from the 2004 gold medalists, she improved to 6-1 in Olympic play with 66 strikeouts in 38 innings.

Softball and baseball were dropped for 2012 and 2016 and restored for these Olympics.

06:11 AM

A reminder it's an 8.30am kick off

You can access the full TV schedule for the Games here.

06:10 AM

Alistrair Brownlee back Games going ahead

Briton Alistair Brownlee said the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics should go ahead after doubts were raised about a cancellation if COVID-19 cases spiked.

Tokyo 2020 organising committee chief Toshiro Muto said on Tuesday they did not rule out cancelling the Games if COVID-19 cases rose, as more athletes tested positive for the virus.

There have been 67 cases of COVID-19 infections in Japan among people accredited for the Games since July 1, despite strict entry measures.

"I think they should go ahead," Brownlee, who won triathlon gold medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016, told the Guardian. "The timing is going to be difficult but it was always going to be difficult.

"'If not now, when?' is the argument I put forward to that. It provides a great opportunity to show that these events can get back to some sort of normality."

Brownlee will not defend his title in Japan after failing to qualify.

06:03 AM

Becca Meyers forced to withdraw from Paralympics


American swimmer Becca Meyers has pulled out of the Paralympics because she says the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee won't let her bring her mother to Tokyo as her personal care assistant.

Meyers, who is deaf and blind as the result of a rare genetic disorder, won three gold medals at the last Paralympics. In a statement explaining her withdrawal, she said the USOPC had approved her mother to act as her assistant at all international meets since 2017.

The USOPC said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are increased restrictions on delegation size at the Tokyo Games, which has left the federation only one slot for a PCA who will have to assist 34 Paralympic swimmers. The PCA has more than 27 years of coaching experience and 11 years with para swimmers, the USOPC said.

"This PCA joins a staff of 10 additional accomplished swim professionals, all who have experience with blind swimmers; totaling 11 staff for 34 athletes," the USOPC said in a statement.

"The decisions we've made on behalf of the team have not been easy, and we are heartbroken for athletes who are unable to have their previous support resources available," the USOPC said. "We are confident in the level of support we will offer Team USA and look forward to providing them a positive athlete experience even in the most unprecedented times."

Meyers, 26, said she made the decision to drop out because she is "speaking up for future generations of Paralympic athletes in hope that they never have to experience the pain I've been through."

Her sponsors Speedo said in a statement: “Becca has been forced to make a decision that no Paralympian should ever have to make and Speedo fully supports her decision to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. As a valued member of Team Speedo, we continue to stand alongside Becca and support her journey and all that makes her an inspiring role model for the next generation of swimmers.”

Several members of the United States Congress have seen Meyers' story and taken to to social media to voice their support.

05:58 AM

Keeping the power on

Japan has rebooted extra power plants, including a long-dormant nuclear reactor, to avoid a power crisis as temperatures soar in Tokyo. Organisers are rolling out various tools to beat the heat, including mist-spraying stations for Olympic horses and cooling vests for referees. The New Zealand men's hockey coach, however, is confident his team are ready for the heat.

"We've ... had plenty of time in the heat chamber and plenty of training to be able to get ourselves as good as we can from within New Zealand," Darren Smith said at a news conference Wednesday.

05:57 AM

Women's football starts today

You can follow Great Britain vs Chile with Molly McElwee on our live blog.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's women's soccer team said they will take the knee before their opening match of the Tokyo Olympics against Australia to raise awareness about greater racial equality in sport.

The International Olympic Committee has relaxed its Rule 50, which had previously forbidden athletes from any protests but now allows them to make gestures on the field, provided they do so without disruption and with respect for fellow competitors.

"We are delighted that the IOC has made room for athletes to use their voices for good at the Olympic Games and are proud of our athletes for making a global stand for greater racial equality," Rob Waddell, New Zealand's Chef de Mission in Tokyo, said in a statement.

"We fully support athlete advocacy where the New Zealand Team values are upheld."

Britain's women's soccer coach Hege Riise also said last week that her players will take the knee before matches at the Tokyo Games to raise awareness about racism and all forms of discrimination.

05:50 AM

The Games begin with softball victory for Japan

By Reuters

Japan's women's softball team got the Tokyo 2020 Olympics off to a winning start for the hosts on Wednesday, kicking off a pandemic-postponed Games that the World Health Organization says can be "a celebration of hope" even as COVID-19 cases surge.

Olympics and Japanese officials have forged ahead with the sports spectacle despite opposition in the country to hosting more than 11,000 athletes, staff and media - dozens of whom have already tested positive for COVID-19.

Spectators have been barred and restrictions have been imposed in and around Tokyo in an effort to minimise health risks among residents and visitors.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Games should go ahead to demonstrate to the world what can be achieved with the right plan and measures.

"May the rays of hope from this land illuminate a new dawn for a healthy, safer and fairer world," he said, holding aloft an Olympic Games torch as he addressed International Olympic Committee members in the Japanese capital. "It is my sincere hope the Tokyo Games succeed."

However, Tedros warned the world was in the early stages of another wave of infections and criticised vaccine discrepancies between countries.

Japan, with about 34% of the population having had at least one dose of the vaccine, has been concerned the Olympics could become a super-spreader event.

In a recent poll in the Asahi newspaper, 68% of respondents expressed doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections, with 55% saying they were opposed to the Games going ahead.

The Games' official opening ceremony is on Friday and is expected to be a scaled-down, sobering performance, according to Marco Balich, a senior advisor to the Tokyo ceremonies executive producer.

As with the opening ceremony, the women's softball match between gold-medal contender Japan and Australia was held without spectators amid buzzing cicadas and polite applause from a few hundred staff at the stadium in Fukushima. The region was devastated by the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, which was triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.