Hours after announcing they were leaving the Winter Olympics early due to Tahli Gill’s positive COVID-19 test, Australia’s mixed doubles curlers have claimed two historic victories.
Gill and partner Dean Hewitt earned Australian curling’s maiden win by beating Switzerland 9-6 on Sunday, the victory coming after seven straight losses.
Not satisfied with that, the pair then won again later in the day, beating Canada, the defending champions, 10-8.
“It’s incredible – our lifelong dream is to come to the Olympics and to win is just great,” Hewitt said.
“We’re so pleased and happy with how we played and we’ve been in it all these games and we’re so pleased we broke through and got the win.”
But the news wasn’t so good for alpine skier Katie Parker, who was unable to complete two negative tests and had to delay her planned departure for Beijing, forcing her out of Monday’s giant slalom.
The Australians curlers were headed for Beijing airport on Sunday with the AOC initially announcing that they weren’t able to play in their final two round robin games after Gill returned a positive test.
Originally contracting COVID-19 in Canada in December, Gill’s CT levels have waivered between positive and negative during her time in Beijing and she has been managed as a “close contact” which means restricted movements and twice-daily testing.
She and Hewitt were also put into two days isolation when she returned a positive test on arrival.
But the pair showed their resilience to break through for their first victory of the competition with the win over Switzerland.
After waiting five days for their first victory, the pair then won their second match within the space of six hours, racing into an 8-0 lead over champions Canada before eventually having to hold on for a 10-8 win at the extra end.
Gill said the day started off as “stressful and disappointing” but she was thrilled to get a chance to play again for a win.
“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions but I’m so incredibly grateful for the support from the medical team to confirm I wasn’t infectious,” Gill said.
The Australians, who are the first to qualify to compete in the Olympic curling competition, were winless through seven rounds, although four of those defeats were by a single point.
Australia took an early 3-1 lead at the third end over the Swiss but were hauled back in with their opponents banking three points in the fourth and then a further two in the fifth end to trail 3-6.
The Aussie duo then came up trumps with their powerplay on the sixth while a further three unanswered points secured a memorable victory.
It appeared they would have to forfeit the matches against Switzerland and Canada but for an urgent meeting of the Medical Expert Panel (MEP) in Beijing.
The MEP examined Gill’s CT values following PCR testing over the past 24 hours and determined they fell into an acceptable range, with the Chinese public health giving her and Hewitt the green light to play on.
Parker is now due to arrive on Tuesday in time to compete in the women’s slalom the following day.