Knott, Watanabe join other PH bets in Tokyo Games
MANILA, Philippines — Kristina Knott and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe received their berths for the Tokyo Olympics set to begin in less than a month, but the Filipino-American sprinter’s preparations hit a snag on Wednesday after her team learned that she tested positive for COVID-19 and would have to be in isolation for five days in Sweden.
Rohsaan Griffin, Knott’s sprint coach, said testing positive for the virus has forced his protege to solitary health confinement in Karlstad, where they received news that the Southeast Asian Games women’s 200-meter champion qualified to Tokyo through the universality rule.
“Physically, she’s not affected, so it will not affect our overall preparation. I’m more worried for her mentally. I’m worried now for her as a person and not as an athlete,’’ said Griffin, who rode a car for three hours and had lunch with Knott and hurdler Eric Cray before Knott’s result came out.
Others test negative
Watanabe, a Filipino-Japanese who claimed a silver medal in the 2018 Asian Games, earned an Olympic spot through a continental quota in the women’s half-middleweight (63kg).
Ranked No. 41 in her division, the 24-year-old from Mandaue City, Cebu, is one of six who earned continental quotas.
Based on the International Judo Federation website, two continental quotas were awarded in Asia in Watanabe’s weight class with Uzbekistan’s Farangiz Khojieva receiving the other slot.
Watanabe is a four-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist.
The tests of Cray, who is hoping to race in another qualifying meet in the men’s 400-meter hurdles on Sunday in Finland, and Griffin came out negative. Knott wasn’t allowed to race in her pet event in Karlstad.
Knott has been inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine early this month and her team has no idea where she could have contracted the virus. But Griffin suspects that she caught the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and has now been prevalent in Europe.
“First, she has to get cleared after five days of confinement and get her out of here. We want to get back to the task of preparing her for Tokyo,’’ said Griffin.
With her current situation, Knott will have to forego another tournament on Sunday in Finland and will go home to Florida before traveling to Austin, Texas, for another round of health protocols prior to her flight to Tokyo on July 18.
Asked about Knott’s medal chances in the Olympics, Griffin said: “Anything can happen [in the Olympics]. This has been mapped out for the last 18 months.’’
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