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Alternate on US women's gymnastics team tests positive for COVID-19

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TOKYO — An alternate on the U.S. women's gymnastics team has tested positive for COVID-19.

Kara Eaker, 18, tested positive, coach Al Fong confirmed in a text message to USA TODAY Sports on Monday night. Leanne Wong, who trains with Eaker at GAGE outside of Kansas City, is also quarantining after being deemed a close contact, Fong said.

Fong told USA TODAY Sports that he and his wife and co-coach Armine do not have to isolate but "will stay with our athletes throughout."

Earlier, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee each confirmed the positive test and specified that the gymnast is an alternate, but did not identify her by name. Eaker's identity was first reported by Justin Surrency, a reporter for WHO TV in Des Moines, Iowa.

Eaker's positive test comes just four days before the start of the opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics. Eaker, who said at the Olympic Trials last month that she had been vaccinated, is the first known American athlete to test positive for COVID-19 while in Japan.

Coco Gauff, a U.S. tennis player, announced Sunday that she tested positive before traveling to Tokyo and would miss the Games.

Eaker's positive test was first announced by the local government of Inzai, a Japanese city in the prefecture where the women's gymnastics team recently held a training camp prior to the start of the Olympics. The city identified the infected individual only as a teenage American gymnast.

USA Gymnastics said she tested positive on Sunday.

USA Gymnastics said that strict protocols were in place while the team and alternates were training together, and Japanese COVID chaperones monitored the delegation's activities to ensure the measures were being followed. That included the four alternates training separately from the team and rooming with one another, as well as sitting on the opposite side of the dining room.

The alternates – Kayla DiCello and Emma Malabuyo are the other two – did ride the same bus to training as the Olympic team, but they and their coaches sat at the back of the bus while the six team members and their coaches sat at the front. Masks were expected to be worn at all times except when eating, training or in their rooms.

It was hoped those measures would keep the six Olympians from being contract traced out of the Games, and activity on social media Monday indicates those efforts might have paid off. As news was breaking of the positive test, the six gymnasts on the team – including the squad’s biggest star, Simone Biles – were posting photos of themselves visiting the Olympic Village.

"On Monday, the Olympic athletes moved to separate lodging accommodations and a separate training facility, as originally planned, and will continue their preparation for the Games," USAG said in a statement. "The entire delegation continues to be vigilant and will maintain strict protocols while they are in Tokyo."

As a further precaution, the Olympic athletes and their coaches will now have their own rooms at the hotel where they're staying.

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U.S. gymnastics alternates Kayla DiCello, Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong and Emma Malabuyo pose after being selected to the 2021 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team on June 27, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri.
U.S. gymnastics alternates Kayla DiCello, Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong and Emma Malabuyo pose after being selected to the 2021 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team on June 27, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri.

Olympic organizers have implemented a series of COVID-19 protocols for athletes, officials and staff at the Olympic Village, to ensure that infected individuals do not enter the compound. It is unlikely that someone who might be a close contact would be permitted to enter the village.

As of Monday, 58 people associated with the Tokyo Olympics had tested positive for COVID-19 since July 1, according to Tokyo 2020. The group includes at least three athletes who are residing in the Olympic Village: Two players on the South African men's soccer team and a Czech beach volleyball player, according to news releases from their respective Olympic committees.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US women's gymnastics team alternate tests positive for COVID in Tokyo