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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A positive coronavirus test, and then a surprise win in curling for Australia

Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt of Australia in mixed doubles curling on Wednesday in Beijing.

By Rick Rojas

Just getting on the ice Sunday felt like a victory.

Tahli Gill of Australia’s mixed doubles curling team had her bags packed and a flight booked to return home. Any hopes of finishing her Olympic run had seemingly been dashed by a series of positive coronavirus tests.

Yet, after a whirlwind of developments Sunday, Gill and her partner, Dean Hewitt, notched Australia’s first-ever wins in curling. The pair beat Switzerland, 9-6.

“I only had time to pull out my uniforms,” Gill told reporters after the match, recounting the dizzying turn of events that led to health officials delivering an unexpected reprieve that sent her scrambling to make the game. “I only played with one glove!”

She had been excluded from her final two matches after a series of positive tests Saturday, Australian Olympic officials said. Gill had alternated between positive and negative tests in recent days, which she had blamed on the residual effects of contracting the virus in December.

The call came late Sunday when Chinese officials decided that Gill’s CT levels, a measure of how much viral material is detected, were within an acceptable range.

It was a sudden turn after Australian Olympic officials said that discussions with health authorities and the International Olympic Committee went late into Saturday without success. By Sunday, Australian officials said, they were making plans to get Gill and Hewitt home after Gill had been moved into an isolation hotel.

When word started trickling in of a possible reprieve, Hewitt said he was reluctant to believe it. “Don’t do this to us, please!” he said of the tantalizing possibility of returning. “Are you serious?”

The news was true.

“It was just crazy, mate,” Hewitt said after the game Sunday. “The excitement in the room was unbelievable.”

That excitement, Hewitt said, fueled their play Sunday. “You don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone,” he said. The win? That was a bonus.

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