WORLD Global sport suffers Omicron hit as multiple high-profile stars test positive


Global sport suffers Omicron hit as multiple high-profile stars test positive


12:40, December 28, 2021

A seller and a man dressed as Santa Claus are seen outside Villa Park before the postponed Premier League match between Aston Villa and Burnley at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, December 18, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

As the new coronavirus variant Omicron spreads even more gloom across the globe, the sporting world is struggling to counteract the pandemic's disruptive consequences.

Fifteen Premier League games have been canceled so far this month as new figures show that 103 players and staff tested positive in the latest screening. That is the highest weekly number recorded since the release of testing results began in May last year.

A Premier League statement said, "The league's COVID-19 emergency measures include protocols such as wearing face coverings while indoors, observing social distancing, limiting treatment time, as well as the increased testing.

Victor Lindeloef (L) of Manchester United is tackled by Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace during their Premier League clash at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, December 5, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

"The league is continuing to work with clubs to keep people safe by helping mitigate the risks of COVID-19 within their squads. We are also liaising closely with the government, local authorities and supporter groups while being responsive to any future changes to national or local guidance," read the statement.

Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof was one of the players who contracted the virus and missed Monday night's trip to Newcastle. A COVID-19 outbreak forced the Red Devils into a 16-day period of inactivity since their win over Norwich on December 11. Their games against Brentford and Brighton have already been called off.

The virus also wreaked havoc on professional tennis. Russian sensation Andrey Rublev, who just beat Andy Murray in the World Tennis Championship final a fortnight ago, became yet another prominent tennis player to test positive in recent weeks.

Andrey Rublev of Russia holds up his trophy during the awards ceremony after the final match of the World Tennis Championship in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi, December 18, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

The world number five joins the growing list of athletes, including 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, current top African player Ons Jabeur and Canadian star Denis Shapovalov, who have been sidelined by COVID-19 positives after playing at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi this month.

U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, who became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows in September, tested positive before the Abu Dhabi event and withdrew.

The coronavirus has also gripped two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who became the latest elite skier to test positive ahead of the Beijing Games.

Mikaela Shiffrin of Team United States takes 2nd place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Giant Slalom in Courchevel, France, December 22, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

Shiffrin, one of the most high-profile Winter Olympic athletes, announced the news via Twitter, adding that she will miss the World Cup giant slalom and slalom races in Lienz, Austria this week.

The 26-year-old American, who is fully vaccinated according to the governing body for U.S. Olympic skiing and snowboarding, underscores the risk for all athletes gearing up for the upcoming Winter Games during these uncertain times.

Earlier this week, Beijing 2022 title contenders Austrian world champion Katharina Liensberger, Swiss world champion Lara Gut-Behrami and New Zealand prospect Alice Robinson also missed races after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

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