Candy Jacobs has spent the last eight days inside a tiny, spartan hotel room in Tokyo — unable to see friends, skate board or even breathe fresh air. It’s a far cry from the open-air Ariake Urban Sports Park where the Dutch street skater expected to spend her time during the Olympics.
The 31-year-old’s nightmare stay in Tokyo began with a simple spit test at Tokyo’s airport on July 21. Positive follow-up tests confirmed she would have to be taken immediately to quarantine — and miss the women’s street skateboarding event she had been training to compete in for years.
She tested positive despite the fact that she took PCR tests four days in a row — all negative — before leaving from the Netherlands and has been fully inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine.
“I was in a sports bubble [in the Netherlands], didn’t see anyone, then went to the airport, flew here, got here,” Jacobs told ABC News’ James Longman over Zoom from her quarantine room. “Did the spit test at the way to the airport [and waited] really long. And then they found out the spit tested positive.”
Jacobs has been told a man on her flight to Japan tested positive for COVID, the only explanation for her positive test. “We can never be sure 100%. But looking back, that’s probably the spot where it happened,” she said.
After days of pushing to get some fresh air, her embassy intervened and officials allowed her and six other quarantining guests to stand together in a room with an open window for 15 minutes. She said the whole experience has been horrific and depressing.
There are speakers in the rooms, which tell them when they have to take their temperature, blood oxygen level and when they must go down to collect their food.
“I’m trying to hang in there. You know, it’s actually been super tough,” Jacobs told ABC News. “There’s no space. There’s not even like a little. I found the emergency door has like a little gasp of air coming through it. And sometimes when I get to pick up my food, I’ll stand there for a minute.”
“It went from the Olympic dream to this real quick,” she added.
She has suffered from a loss of taste and smell, a common symptom of COVID, and some lethargy, but is otherwise fine, Jacobs said.
“I try to just be active and I try to do a kickflip every day in my room,” she said, adding the carpet is too thick for her skateboard to roll. “I try to work out as much as I can when my body is like feeling up for it. But I’m noticing the first two or three days I was super active, and then at one point — it’s also from lacking outside air — your body just is going on standby mode.”
Skateboarding was held for the first time in the Olympics in Tokyo. The women’s street competition, for which Jacobs was scheduled to compete, was held on Monday. The podium was dominated by a group of teenagers, with 13-year-olds Momiji Nishiya of Japan and Rayssa Leal of Brazil winning gold and silver, respectively. Funa Nakayama, 16, of Japan, rounded out the podium with bronze.
Jacobs is currently ranked No. 8 in the world and would have been a medal contender. She said she watched the competition alone in her hotel room. While she said she was happy to see the event, and root on her Dutch teammate Roos Zwetsloot — who finished fifth — the reality sank in once it was over.
“Even though this is the scenario you’re in, you still have a little bit of hope that someone made a mistake and someone’s going to go and be like, ‘OK, we figured something out,'” Jacobs said. “So when that drops away, it was like, ‘OK, so now it gets really tough,’ because this is a moment — it’s never going to be the first time skateboarding ever in the Olympics.”
“And every time someone’s going to talk about the Olympics, this is going to be what they think of when they see me,” she continued. “And they’re not going to think about how good of a skateboarder I am or that historic moment in time. You’re going to think, ‘Oh, yeah, that was the moment she tested positive for COVID.'”
There have been 174 positive COVID cases at the Olympics, as of Wednesday, though most positive tests have been by contractors and “games-concerned personnel.” Seventeen, including Jacobs, have been athletes. She was the eighth athlete to test positive. Several other Olympians, including big names like American golfer Bryson DeChambeau and 3-on-3 basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson, tested positive before leaving for Tokyo and were scratched from the games.
Jacobs expects to be released from the quarantine on Friday. She said she will immediately depart the city, flying home to Europe.
“I want to go home really bad,” she said. “I get to leave on Friday afternoon and hopefully I’ll be on a flight on Friday evening. If not, I’ll probably stay in a hotel and then try to fly out as quick as I can. I’m not going back to the Village.”
In fact, she is already turning her attention to the next games.
“I’m going to prepare for Paris 2024, so I have a long way to go,” Jacobs said.
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