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Kelsey-Lee Barber COVID positive, when does Cody Simpson compete, why cricket team won’t march

Australia’s world champion javelin thrower tests positive for Covid, pop star turned swimmer Cody Simpson reveals the inspiration for his career shift and Australia’s flag bearers are named for the opening ceremony.

Join us for daily updates of the highlights and headlines from Birmingham 2022.

Barber blow

Australia’s world champion javelin thrower Kelsey-Lee Barber has tested positive to COVID-19 on the eve of the Commonwealth Games, but team officials are hopeful she will be cleared to compete.

Barber became the first woman to defend a javelin world championship in the USA last week.

Barber is reported to be asymptomatic but produced a positive result to a routine test.

“Kelsey-Lee Barber is not out [of the Games],” Australia’s high-performance manager Andrew Faichney told reporters on Thursday.

“We are just working through with Commonwealth Games Association what the requirements are for her being able to compete and there are some protocols as far as the Australian organising committee are concerned, but my understanding is she is not ruled out from competing at all.


“I have to reconfirm but I think the organising committee has said that if an athlete is well and healthy enough, then they are going to be able to compete and so that is what we are working through. But she has also got it early enough that she might be able to compete anyway.”

The women’s javelin final is on Sunday, August 7, at 7pm (AEST).

The Commonwealth Games Authority said individual nation will be responsible for policing their own athletes around COVID-19 infections.

“COVID unfortunately has been an ongoing challenge,” said team Chef de Mission Petria Thomas.

“We’re managing various cases as they pop up so our COVID team has done a mountain of work trying to make sure people can get to the Games and for our athletes to be able to get to the start line.”

Cricket team braced for positives

Australia’s gold medal favourite women’s T20 cricket team will miss the opening ceremony, with their first match against India less than 24 hours later.

Covid considerations are also front of mind for the players and staff.

Star player Alyssa Healy described the decision not to march as “a bit disappointing” but understandable.

“We have taken quite a cautious approach, knowing that if one goes down there’s potential that more in the team will go down,” Healy said.

Healy seemed resigned to Covid being a factor for the team in Birmingham.

“I think that’s the nature of the world at the moment, is that’s going to happen,” Healy told reporters.

“We hope it doesn’t come into our group, but I think that’s a pipe dream – I’m sure it will at some point.

“I think we’re just making sure we’re doing what we can to minimise that risk and we’ll let the opposition do what they want to do. And yeah, hopefully we’ll just stay safe within our group.

“We take quite a cautious approach to COVID, knowing that if one goes down the potential that more in the team are going to go down,” Healy added.

Cody Simpson’s inspiration

Pop star turned swimmer Cody Simpson says he’s hoping his international following can help turn more kids onto swimming as a competitive sport.

“I’d love to inspire more kids to get into it and show that it’s cool,” the 25-year-old, who has more than 17 million social media followers, told CNN.

“I love the sport, so if that’s all I ever do for swimming is try and bring some more eyeballs to it, then I feel like I’ve done part of my job because I love it and I want more people to love it.”

Simpson has qualified for the 50m and 100m butterfly events in his first international meet.

He has some big names in his corner as well, with Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps as mentors.

“To have people like that in my corner and to be able to call or text them and ask for things or advice is very special,” says Simpson, “especially because these are the guys who I had on my wall and on my computer screensaver and things growing up — Ian being one of them and also Michael being another.”

Simpson, who first found fame as a YouTube singer when 12 years old, starts his campaign on Saturday AEST.

As if he wasn’t already the centre of attention, Simpson’s relationship with Olympics star Emma McKeon, the former girlfriend of Kyle Chalmers, has created waves in the tight knit swim community.

“There’s obviously been a fair bit of drama, in the media and that around, all the team dynamic and, but no, there’s been nothing but support around, me coming into the team, making the team,” Simpson told Channel 7 of how he has been received.

Flag bearers announced

Having planned to be tucked up in bed, Rachael Grinham was instead dodging tombstones and left facing a sleepless night after the squash star was named Australia’s Birmingham Games flagbearer alongside Kookaburras co-captain Eddie Ockenden. 

Grinham, competing at her sixth Commonwealth Games, and Ockenden – in search of a fourth straight Games gold – will lead out an expected 200-strong Australian contingent marching into the opening ceremony on Thursday night (Friday morning AEST).

The move to have two flagbearers per nation follows the lead of the Tokyo Olympics – where Cate Campbell and Patty Mills had the honour for Australia. 

Fronting the media in the eerie setting of a graveyard outside St Bartholomew’s Church, Grinham was still coming to terms with the honour.

She admitted to being unsure why she had been asked to take part in a walk around the athletes village with team chef de mission Petria Thomas and Governor-General David Hurley – during which she was told of the decision. 

“I thought I was going for a walk with the dignitaries and then probably get back and have some dinner with my team and be in bed by now,” Grinham said.

“An overwhelming surprise.

“I probably thought the last (Commonwealth Games) on the Gold Coast was going to be my last, and here I am again.

“I can’t imagine a higher highlight in my career right now. I’m kind of still pinching myself ‘ Did this just happen or what?’

“It’s unbelievable, I probably won’t sleep tonight at all.”

But the honour could scarcely be bestowed on a worthier athlete, with the Queenslander set to complete a Games journey which began in 1998 and has so far yielded eight medals, including two golds.

One of those gold medals was won alongside sister Natalie in the women’s doubles in Melbourne in 2006.

While Grinham will become the first squash player to be a flagbearer for Australia, Tasmanian Ockenden will make it back-to-back representation for hockey – with former teammate Mark Knowles earning the role on the Gold Coast four years ago.

Ockenden was Knowles’ roommate for the Gold Coast Games, and will be attempting to emulate the former Kookaburras co-captain’s feats by winning a fourth straight Games gold in Birmingham.

“When he (Knowles) was named I was so excited for him, I said ‘this is so cool for hockey’,” said Ockenden – who has never lost a match at the Games in three previous appearances.

“I felt more excted for him back then just for hockey and everything than I’m feeling right now because I’m a bit more nervous.”

Thomas said settling on the pair was a tough choice from a field of 25 contenders, which surprisingly did not include table tennis veteran Jian Fang Lay, who along with Grinham will become the first females to represent Australia at six Games.

She confirmed around half the team would take part in the opening ceremony at Alexander Stadium, a strong showing considering the jam-packed opening-day schedule.

Manly’s ‘punch in the face’

Rugby sevens star Sharni Williams has described the news that Manly players have boycotted a game over the club’s decision to wear pride jerseys as a “punch in the face”.

Williams, who wore rainbow headgear at the Tokyo Olympics, told the Sydney Morning Herald, that she felt duty bound to make a comment on the Manly situation.

“It’s obviously a tough position for me to be in,” Williams said. “I am visible and I have a responsibility, but at the same time I have a job here to be at the Commonwealth Games, to be alongside my teammates.

“It’s a bit of a punch in the face but I also expect it. We’ve been working at it for so long. I respect those haters and I understand it but at the same time I respect my views and I stand there by the people to know there are other people out there for them.

“The rainbow headgear is really important to me. It’s that visibility piece for myself and for my community. It’s finally being comfortable with myself, [which] is huge. Me being able to share my story helps others be able to figure out who they are and what stories they have.

“It’s the communication and education piece. If you communicate early about wearing it, everything can be sorted.

“If one of the girls [in my team] didn’t want to wear it, I’d be like, ‘Well, I understand that’s your view and your opinion but it hurts’.”

(With AAP)

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