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KCUR follows the Kansas City athletes competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Kansas City Gymnasts 'Haven't Even Seen The Light Of Day' After Being Sidelined By COVID In Tokyo

Kansas City-area gymnasts Kara Eaker (left) and Leanne Wong (right) are alternates for the U.S. women's team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Courtesy of Al Fong
Kansas City-area gymnasts Kara Eaker (left) and Leanne Wong (right) are alternates for the U.S. women's team at the Tokyo Olympics.

Kara Eaker and Leanne Wong arrived in Japan as alternates on the Women's Gymnastics team, prepared to compete if one of their teammates suffered an injury or became ill. Instead, they were quarantined after Eaker tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a twist of fate feared by thousands of athletes finally headed to Tokyo for the Summer Games, Kara Eaker and Leanne Wong had their Olympic dreams dashed by a positive coronavirus test.

The Kansas City gymnasts were sidelined Monday after Eaker tested positive for COVID and Wong, as her teammate who also traveled to Japan with her, was quarantined because of contact tracing.

”They’re obviously disappointed,” said their coach Al Fong. "They're antsy. They feel like they’ve missed a significant part of the show.”

Fong, who is not quarantined, is staying in close communication by telephone with Eaker and Wong while they are isolated.

“We’ve been stuck in the hotel room and, literally, our meals have been brought to the door," Fong explained. "The two girls have not even seen the light of day. They’re not even supposed to stick their head out in the hallway.”

Each day the gymnasts and Fong take a COVID test.


Eaker and Wong were able to participate in the first workout in Japan which occurred before the COVID test that upended their plans. They were prepared to compete if they were called upon to do so.

Fong said, "They were bringing it ... we saw them toward the end of our workout in our gym (at GAGE in Blue Springs), they were peaking perfectly up to this point.”


After the positive test, their plans changed dramatically.

Fong recalled, “It was like everything comes to a screeching halt, which took us all completely by surprise. How would anybody feel when they’re all so close and then all of a sudden it just stops?”

According to Fong, fans from Kansas City and around the world have sent sympathy and well-wishes to Eaker and Wong.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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