Russia is not sending gymnasts to next weekend’s World Cup meet in Milwaukee because of coronavirus fears.
Russia is also opting out of a World Cup event April 4-5 in Tokyo, all but assuring its men’s and women’s teams won’t be able to claim one of the extra spots available for the Summer Olympics.
“Imagine, if someone will sneeze on the plane, we will be left [in quarantine] for two weeks,” Andrei Rodionenko, head coach of the Russian team, said in comments translated by Gymnovosti.com, which follows Russian gymnastics.
“Russia is doing the right thing, protecting its citizens,” Rodionenko added, “and we must protect our gymnasts.”
The lengthy trip was a factor in Russia’s decision to withdraw from the American Cup, said Valentina Rodionenko, a senior national team coach. Reigning world champion Nikita Nagornyy and Lilia Akhaimova would have had to make two stops to get to Milwaukee, including one in Amsterdam, one of the world’s largest airports.
The American Cup is March 7 at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
“If even one person will be suspected [of carrying coronavirus], all the passengers will be quarantined, and that’s two weeks minimum,” Valentina Rodionenko said, according to Gymnovosti. “Imagine what it means for a gymnast to be quarantined for two weeks, while the European Championships are around the corner.”
The American Cup is the first of four all-around World Cups, while Tokyo is the last, and the top three countries in the standings at the end of the series get an additional spot at the Olympics. But even if Russian gymnasts win the remaining two World Cups – in Birmingham, England, and Stuttgart, Germany – the chances of it cracking the top three are very slim.
The International Gymnastics Federation did not return an email Friday from USA TODAY Sports asking about the impact on Olympic qualifying. It has said previously that it is consulting with the International Olympic Committee but did not give specifics.
The Russians could still pick up the extra spots that go to the winners of the European championships, which are April 30-May 3 in Paris for the women and May 27-31 in Baku, Azerbaijan, for the men. And the Russian men are still in the running for a spot that’s available through the individual event World Cups.
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