Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans has been freed from an isolation facility in Beijing following a plea for help in a tearful video posted on Instagram.
Meylemans confirmed that she now felt “safe” at the Olympic village after the Belgian Olympic Committee and the IOC stepped in when they learned she had wrongly been taken by ambulance to a second government facility and was told she would have to isolate for 14 more days due to Covid-19 concerns.
The Belgian tested positive for the virus upon her arrival in China, which meant she had to enter isolation and return several negative tests before being cleared to move into the Yanqing Olympic village.
She thought that was happening Wednesday and boarded an ambulance for what she thought was a ride to the village.
“But the ambulance went to another facility,” Meylemans said in an Instagram post that quickly captured attention and raised questions about how her mental health was being affected by the saga.
In a video update on Wednesday evening Meylemans, 25, added: “At 11.35pm there was a knock on my door and I was escorted to the Olympic village. I’m now in a wing that’s just isolation, but at least I’m back in the village. I feel safe and I’ll be able to train a little better here.
“It seems like the video and the efforts of my Olympic Committee have really paid off.”
Meylemans was 14th in her debut Olympics at Pyeongchang in 2018, but is expected to be more of a contender at the Beijing Games. She has one medal from World Cup races this season, a bronze, and was no worse than sixth in five of the final six races on the circuit this season.
“Relieved to hear that Kim Meylemans is now in the Olympic village,” IOC spokesman Christian Klaue tweeted. “We are glad that all the efforts led to the successful resolution of this situation.”
Meylemans will now stay in an isolated room and still needs seven days of testing before she can be released from that wing. However she should be able to begin practice for the women’s skeleton, which starts next week, before the competition begins on 12February.
Earlier Rob Koehler, the director general of Global Athlete, an organisation geared to helping athletes, called Meylemans’ treatment “totally unacceptable”.
“She should never have to endure these conditions,” he added. “The IOC is failing athlete rights.”