Eve Thomas, Michael Pickett and Lea Muellner On Mad Dash Home To New Zealand Olympic Trials To Beat Quarantine Deadline

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Eve Thomas, Michael Pickett and Lea Muellner, three of New Zealand‘s top young prospects in the pool, are making a mad dash home from the base at the St Peter’s Western program in Brisbane, Australia, to beat strict coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantine border controls coming into force tomorrow that would force the swimmers to miss Olympic trials.

Thomas’ mother, Sarah Hardcastle, the Olympic distance freestyle medallist in 1984 and World short-course champion for Britain on a comeback in the 1990s and a Commonwealth champion for England, is also heading to New Zealand to be with her daughter in time for trials but is having to travel via Fiji after direct flights were swamped with bookings soon after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined stringent new containment rules.

New Zealand, with just six coronavirus COVID-19 infections reported so far, will require everyone arriving in the country to isolate themselves for 14 days in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The deadline is tomorrow and anyone arriving in New Zealand after it faces 14 days of isolation under stringent new measures to keep the bug at bay.

Welshman Lee Thomas, Eve’s father, told Swimming World from Australia, where the family is based:

“We think the shutdown in New Zealand is very good. It’s the right thing to do. We think a lot of other countries should be doing the same. We’re just really glad that Eve and her teammates could make it back in time and get the chance to show what they’re been working hard at.”

Hardcastle added:

“Eve, Michael and Lea get in before the deadline, thank goodness. We don’t know yet if the Olympics is going to have to be pushed back but it would be sad if the kids can’t race at trials and miss their chance because they were in quarantine.”

She would be taking a 17-hour journey via Fiji after Hardcastle and Lee decided to call off 25th anniversary holiday plans to take stock of the development coronavirus crisis.

Eve Thomas, a national distance champion, has seen her 400, 800 and 1500m times have come on in leaps and bounds these past two years. Back home she will now train at Northern Arena in Silverdale, Auckland, home of the COAST swim club under the guidance of coach Michael Weston.

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Michael Pickett – Photo Courtesy: John Gatfield

Pickett, who like Thomas is coached by John Gatfield in Australia, is a talented sprinter who at 16 clocked 22.3 over 50m freestyle after having lifted bronze in 22.86 at the at the 2018 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

They and Muellner will arrive home just in time.

Ardern said the new rules, which come in from midnight Sunday local time, will mean New Zealand has the toughest restrictions in the world, though many European nations are not far behind, including Italy, Scandinavian nations, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, all of which have closed their borders and imposed strict controls.

In comments reported by Radio NZ, Ardern said:

“Cabinet made far reaching and unprecedented decisions today because these are unprecedented circumstances. As of midnight Sunday every person entering New Zealand, including returning New Zealand citizens and residents, will be required to enter self isolation for 14 days – everybody.”

The News Zealand Open Championships and Olympic trials get underway on March 31 and run until April 5 at Auckland’s Sir Owen G. Glenn National Aquatic Centre.

The low incidence of coronavirus in New Zealand and the relatively low numbers of swimmers involved compared to championships in Australia, Britain, Canada and elsewhere, due to race at the championships looks set to ensure that the meet can proceed, pending further developments.

Elsewhere the picture is one of postponement and cancellation:

Extraordinary Events In Swimming History:

Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil and Japan have all had major meets affected by the coronavirus pandemic, while in the United States, the NCAA Championships have been cancelled and USA Swimming has imposed a 30-day suspension on all events, while Canada is considering what to do about its Olympic trials early next month. In Italy, where swimmers are struggling to maintain normal routines, can’t get to practice and in some cases find pool time, a #stopolympics campaign was launched by the Nuoto website calling on solidarity among swimming nations to recognise that Olympic preparations have been blown off course and that it would be in the interests of fairness to postpone the Games for a time of calm beyond the coronavirus crisis. 

Our coverage:

Guidance on Water and Coronavirus 

 

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5 comments

  1. Alan Bruce Gresham

    Olympic Trials for what? With all mass gatherings canceled, does anyone really think that Tokyo is going to hold an Olympics??
    I highly doubt it….

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Some do, Alan… I think it would be ridiculous. The NZL ‘trials’ are also national championships/titles etc … if they feel they have a safe environment at a meet with far fewer people than bigger nations have, up to them. The coming days will tell whether the 6 cases detected in NZL result in ‘good containment’ and ‘caught on time’ or not.

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