Skeleton-U.S Virgin Islands' Tannenbaum watches dream slip away in isolation

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YANQING, China, Feb 8 (Reuters) - As her rivals thundered down the sinuous Yanqing sliding track on Tuesday preparing for the chance of glory later this week, Katie Tannenbaum was stuck in he COVID-19 isolation room for the seventh day, watching her Olympic dream slide away.

The sole representative of the U.S. Virgin Islands is desperate to get out.

Tannenbaum tested positive in one of the Olympic villages, though she has now had several days of what should be negative tests, she said. But the standards for what would allow her to get out keep changing.

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"The IOC (International Olympic Committee) won't even provide a clear definition of what constitutes a negative test result," she said in a message sent from her isolation room.

"It's really hard mentally. This isn't the Olympic experience I imagined," added the 36-year-old.

"They don't provide any excuses, someone will just say the other person you got information from was wrong.

"But the IOC won't provide definitive information in writing. It's just general disorganization ... which for an event of this scale should not be happening."

Tannenbaum is now in a race against time as Wednesday is the last day for women's skeleton training.

"At this point, I have to participate in this and successfully complete every training run in order to be eligible to compete," she said.

"I am not confident I will be released from isolation in time, despite the fact that all of the CT values of my COVID tests are coming in above 35 at this time, most are well above 40."

Before the Games the IOC said organisers had changed the positivity threshold so only participants whose PCR results with a Cycle Threshold (CT) of less than 35 would be considered positive. read more

The U.S. Virgin Islands National Olympic Committee had been trying all day to get information but the Chinese government kept changing the standards of what constitutes a negative result, she said.


Tannenbaum is doing what she can to prepare for the Games, with some weights and resistance bands in her room.

Breakfasts involving copious quantities of beans and sausages is probably not what her coach would recommend.

The 2002 Salt Lake Games sparked the 36-year-old's passion for skeleton but, with the U.S. Virgin Islands lacking training facilities, Tannenbaum only got her first chance at trying the sport after volunteering for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Since then she has leapt at every opportunity to race.

In 2017-18 Tannenbaum did not get enough points for a quota spot at the Pyeongchang Games, although athletes with fewer points were allocated spots.

She does not think she would go to the next Olympics in four years' time in Italy. "With the Olympic experience I've had, it's not something I want to re-live," Tannenbaum said.

Belgium's Kim Meylemans was among the skeleton racers training at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old tearfully described her anguish over facing seven days of isolation after a COVID-19 scare last week.

Belgian Olympic officials and the IOC moved to intervene to have her taken into one of the Olympic villages. read more

Meylemans received two results the IOC defined as negative to get her release. But Tannenbaum said on Monday she had four tests with CT values above 35, which should mean a negative.

"They called the result positive and have been unresponsive as to why," she added.

On Sunday, Tannenbaum posted an Instagram video showing her smiling tearfully as her coaching team carried the U.S. Virgin Islands flag she was supposed to bare into the Bird's Nest stadium for the opening ceremony without her.

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Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Ken Ferris

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