Australia

Rachael Lynch
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Hockey field to hospital ward; Olympian’s life amid coronavirus pandemic

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PERTH, Australia (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic ended any chance of Rachael Lynch competing for Olympic gold in Tokyo this year. Now she’s switching into the medical mode to take on the virus.

Lynch, the goalkeeper for Australia’s women’s field hockey team, is a registered nurse.

So after the Olympics were postponed to July of next year, Lynch applied to work as a registered nurse at two COVID-19 clinics in the Western Australia state capital.

Lynch was already working a day a week in a neuro-rehabilitation ward — part of her of work-life balance with training for elite sport. She initially didn’t have any scheduled shifts last week because the national squad — the Hockeyroos — were supposed to be in Europe preparing for the Olympics.

“As soon as we finished up on Monday I went in and saw my boss,” the 33-year-old Lynch, rated among the best goalkeeper’s globally in the sport, told the Australian Associated Press. “They’re trying to recruit as many nurses and healthcare workers as they can, because they’re anticipating the load is going to be massive soon.

“For the first time since being a graduate, I’m able to work full time” as a nurse.

Lynch has been frustrated by seeing images of people gathering on beaches in parts of Australia and others of people not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough, despite government policies to curb travel and ensure social distancing.

“Anybody in hospital for any reason, they’re now put at risk (because of that), Lynch said.

There have been more than 5,000 infections and 24 deaths in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic. Altogether, close to 940,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, according to a tally being kept by Johns Hopkins University. More than 47,000 people have died from the virus, which was first detected in China late last year.

Lynch said focusing on work meant she didn’t have time to dwell on missing an opportunity at the Olympics. The Australians were knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2016. With 150 international caps and a World Cup silver medal, Lynch is open-minded about her playing future.

“Most of the advice in the sporting world is to not make any big decisions now,” she told AAP. “I’ve reflected on the thoughts, words and emotions you might use to describe an Olympics being postponed.

“None of them are relevant now. You can’t say — devastated, disappointed or sad — because it just does not compare to what’s actually happening in the world right now.”

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Olympic BMX hopeful in medically-induced coma after crash

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Olympic BMX cycling hopeful Kai Sakakibara is in a medically-induced coma in Canberra Hospital after sustaining serious head injuries in a weekend racing accident.

The 23-year-old rider underwent surgery on Sunday morning to relieve pressure on his brain following the Saturday crash. Described as being in a critical but stable condition, Sakakibara is expected to remain in a coma for the next two weeks.

Sakakibara, ranked 10th in the world, was aiming to make his Olympic debut in Japan, where he spent part of his childhood after being born on the Gold Coast in Australia.

“We understand the road ahead will be a long and difficult one, we are staying positive and taking things day by day,” a statement from Sakakibara’s family said Wednesday. “There isn’t much we can do at this point, but Kai needs your support and your positive energy sent his way.”

Sakakibara fell on the second corner during his opening-round heat at a World Cup event in Bathurst, 125 miles northwest of Sydney, and was treated on site by paramedics and a doctor before he was airlifted to hospital.

He began racing as a four-year-old, moving to Tokyo in 2000 and collecting multiple national titles before returning to Australia in 2008.

Sakakibara’s parents Martin and Yuki said their son’s BMX career was “on hold for now” as they focused on his long-term rehabilitation.

Olympic modern pentathlon champion to miss Tokyo Games due to pregnancy

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Chloe Esposito, the Australian who won the Rio Olympic modern pentathlon, will not defend her title in Tokyo because she is pregnant with her first child due in August.

“True to form, nothing ever works out the way we plan it,” was posted on Esposito’s social media. “Defending my title will have to wait another four years. Can’t wait to be a mum.”

Esposito, 28, is Australia’s lone Olympic medalist in modern pentathlon, which features four disciplines: fencing, show jumping, swimming and a combined running/shooting event.

She won with an Olympic record 1,372 points, rallying from fourth place going into the running-shooting finale. Her father and brother also competed in Olympic modern pentathlon.

Her victory in Rio was a surprise, given she was seventh at the London Olympics and eighth at the 2015 World Championships. Esposito took a year off after Rio and returned to win the 2018 World Cup Final, taking the world No. 1 ranking that year. She missed 2019 competition after a hamstring operation.

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