Casey Dawson, an American speedskater, first tested positive for Covid-19 three weeks ago. What followed has been “an emotional roller coaster,” he said.
Dawson, a 21-year-old from Salt Lake City, has been competing in speedskating for more than a decade and had qualified to compete in the 5,000-meter and 1,500-meter individual races at the Beijing Games.
Dawson experienced no symptoms. Yet in the subsequent weeks, his polymerase chain reaction tests — negative results are required for entry into China — kept returning positive results.
After producing two consecutive negative tests, he thought he might be able to fly out on Friday. But Dawson received notice on Tuesday that four consecutive negative tests would be required. “I don’t know if they misinformed me or changed the rules,” he said.
Either way, it meant that he would not make it to Beijing in time to compete in the individual events. “My heart just dropped, and that’s when I knew I wasn’t going to make it,” he said.
Emery Lehman, a two-time Olympian, will replace Dawson in the 5,000 meters. When another teammate, Ethan Cepuran, is competing in his place in the 1,500 on Tuesday, Dawson hopes he will finally be on his way to Beijing.
Dawson said he had experienced tearful moments and was now focused on “getting ready for the team pursuit,” as “that’s all you can do.”
The team has had a “breakout year,” Dawson said. And the numbers back that up: He, Lehman and Joey Mantia broke the world record in the men’s speedskating team pursuit in December.
“My expectation is that he’ll get here,” Matt Kooreman, the long-track program director for U.S. Speedskating, told The Associated Press on Friday. “He’s such a levelheaded guy. I’m more worried about the people around him freaking out than I am him freaking out.”
Dawson said missing the individual events had given him “a lot of motivation” and time to focus on one race. While it was bittersweet to watch from Utah as his teammate Brittany Bowe carried the U.S. flag in the opening ceremony, he remained optimistic, saying, “I’ll be there for the closing ceremony.”
The men’s team pursuit quarterfinals take place on Feb. 13, with the semifinals and the final scheduled two days later. The U.S. men are expected to be strong medal contenders.