Ugandan athlete who fled pre-Olympics camp found in central Japan

20 July 2021, 19:02

Weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko disappeared on Friday
Weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko disappeared on Friday. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

A Ugandan athlete who fled during pre-Olympics training in western Japan last week has been found and is being interviewed by police, officials have said.

Mie prefectural police in central Japan said 20-year-old weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko was in the Yokkaichi city, 105 miles east of his host town in western Japan.

Police are asking him what happened since he fled his hotel in Izumisano in the Osaka prefecture on Friday, leaving behind his luggage and a note saying he wanted to stay in Japan and work.

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Mr Ssekitoleko did not meet Olympic standards in the latest international rankings, released after he arrived Japan, and was to return home this week.

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The pandemic-delayed Olympics will begin on Friday despite mounting concern about an upsurge of infections in Tokyo, which on Tuesday reported 1,387 cases, up 557 from a week ago.

On their arrival on June 19 at Narita International Airport, a member of the team tested positive and was quarantined, while the remaining eight members were allowed to travel more than 300 miles on a chartered bus to Izumisano.

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Days later, a second member of the team tested positive, forcing seven town officials and drivers who had close contact with the team to self-isolate.

Health officials said both infected Ugandans had the Delta variant, which is believed to be more contagious.

The team, which ended its isolation and trained from July 7, headed to Tokyo's Olympic village on Tuesday without Mr Ssekitoleko.

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Six British athletes and two staff members have also been forced to self-isolate as a result of a positive case in the Olympic Village.

The eight members of Team GB were identified as close contacts of an individual who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, the British Olympic Association (BOA) said on Sunday.

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Team GB's Chef de Mission Mark England described it as "disappointing news for the athletes and staff" but added they will "absolutely respect the protocols in place".

"We will offer them every support during this period and we are hopeful that they will be able to resume training again soon," he added.

The individual who tested positive was not a member of Team GB but was a close contact on their flight to Japan on Thursday, the BOA said.