Olympians compete in nearly empty arenas without friends or family. Some wear N95 masks, in practice and even in competition, to limit the risk of infection. The rest live with the daily fear of testing positive, being sent to isolation and watching years of training slip away. Natalia Maliszewska, a short-track speedskater from Poland, was awoken at 3 a.m. one night this week, before she was set to compete, and transported to isolation before learning that authorities had made a mistake. It later turned out that she had tested positive and was returned to isolation. “To me, this is a big joke,” Ms. Maliszewska said. “I hope whoever is managing this has a lot of fun. My heart and my mind can’t take this anymore.” The usual stresses, strains and tolls of competing at the Games have been amplified by a pandemic that has shrunk the event to fit into a suffocating bubble. American figure skater Vincent Zhou felt a sense of desperation from inside his isolation hotel room this week after he tested positive for Covid-19. With his chance to compete now over — he skated in the team event but missed his individual event — he was awaiting the two negative PCR tests that would return his freedom.
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