Quarantined Olympic skateboarder goes on ‘strike’ for fresh air

Candy Jacobs of the Netherlands competes during the finals of the WS/SLS 2019 World Championship at Parque Anhembi on September 22, 2019 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Candy Jacobs, a Dutch skateboarder who has been quarantined due to a positive COVID-19 test, said she had to go on strike in order to be allowed a breath of fresh air at the Olympics.

Jacobs, who tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21, has been isolated in a hotel in Japan since then. In a video posted to Instagram, the skateboarder said that the window and door in her quarantine hotel room don’t open, and so she hadn’t been able to get any fresh air.

“Not having any outside air is so inhuman,” she said.

She said she sat and refused to move on her seventh day of quarantine. After more than seven hours, she said, officials agreed she could stand at an open window under supervision for 15 minutes a day.

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“Having that first breath of outside air was the saddest and best moment in my life,” she said. “So I’m definitely experiencing some new feelings here.”

On Tuesday, Dutch officials expressed unease about conditions for their quarantined athletes. Six Dutch Olympians have been quarantined following positive COVID-19 tests and a total of 174 people, including athletes and staff, have tested positive for the virus at the Olympics since July 1.

Dutch technical director Maurits Hendriks and other team officials were meeting with the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday to discuss the quarantine conditions of those who tested positive, Hendriks said.

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The athletes’ dreams had already been shattered by testing positive for COVID-19, Hendriks said, describing the quarantine situation as “very distressing” at a news conference.

“It’s not what you expect from the Japanese organization when it comes to isolating,” he said.

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Those who are quarantined are forbidden from getting fresh air, while being confined to “very small” spaces, which stands in contrast to calls for constant ventilation to reduce infection spread, according to Hendriks.

“One of the most important things is that they see outside air because the windows are locked and are not allowed to be opened. … We think that is really serious,” he said.

Jacobs mentioned that she was able to get some exercise while in quarantine, even if she couldn’t get fresh air.

The Dutch delegation had been asking for clarity about quarantine protocols for months in the run-up to Tokyo 2020, but had never received it, Hendriks said.

“If you then have to conclude afterwards where our people ended up, that’s really unacceptable as far as we’re concerned,” he added.

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Tokyo 2020 organizers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the criticism of the quarantine conditions.

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On Tuesday, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams hailed the Games’ success so far against COVID-19, saying that the infection rate was very low. “This is the most tested, and possibly even the most vaccinated, but the most tested community almost certainly anywhere in the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jacobs hopes she is able to leave quarantine soon — even though she already missed her event. “This ride has been the wildest I’ve ever been on and I hopefully never have to go through something like this again, because this is hard.”

Aside from losing her Olympic dream, she said, “Being confronted with yourself 24/7 is more than a lot of humans can handle.”

— with files from Reuters and the Associated Press

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