The Chinese gymnastics team has officially withdrawn from the World Cup next week due to travel restrictions put in place by the Australian government, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
The World Cup is set to kick off Feb. 20 in Melbourne. The Australian government, however, extended its restriction on all foreign nationals traveling to their country from China for another week due to the massive coronavirus outbreak.
Therefore, the Chinese team will not be able to compete in the annual event — which could impact their qualifying chances for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo later this year.
“It’s been a very challenging few weeks for us all, but none more so than for the Chinese gymnasts and officials who have been training and preparing to come to Melbourne,” Gymnastics Australia chief executive Kitty Chiller said, via the Associated Press.
“I have been in regular contact with the Chinese Gymnastics Association and its president, who informs me all of their delegation are well and have shown no sign of infection. Despite this, we all have to respect the Australian government’s travel restrictions.”
As of Saturday, the virus has infected more than 67,000 people and killed at least 1,527 — all but four of which were in China, according to the New York Times. The virus, which started in Wuhan, has now spread to at least 25 other countries in recent weeks, including Australia, Canada, the United States and much of Western Europe.
The outbreak has caused numerous sporting events to relocate from China, too, including boxing matches, Olympic qualifiers and multiple LPGA and PGA Tour Series-China events, among others.
The Chinese team that was set to compete in the World Cup included multiple former world champions and Olympic medal winners — including four-time world champion and two-time Olympic medal winner Zhang Chenglong, and former all-around world champion Xiao Routeng. The World Cup offers qualifying points for the upcoming Olympics, too, which could put athletes’ status in jeopardy.
Organizers for the Olympics announced on Friday that, despite the global outbreak, the Games remain “on track” and will go forward as scheduled.
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