Winter Olympics: Natalia Maliszewska's 'horror' Covid-19 experience at Beijing 2022

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Short track speed skater Natalia Maliszewska is preparing to compete in the women’s 1,000m singles event and 4,000m relay semi-final tomorrow at the Beijing Olympics.

While she could be looking at a spot in the team final with Poland, the 26-year-old’s time at the Games has been far from an easy one.

Maliszewska endured a rollercoaster of emotions as her place at the 2022 Olympics hung in the balance due to a nightmare Covid-19 experience.

On January 30th, the speed skater tested positive for the virus and her participation at the Games was voided.

After being sent to isolate before flying home, Maliszewska was surprised just hours before her scheduled 500m qualifying race. At 3am, she was woken up by hotel employees wearing cameras on their belts and taken from her room before being ushered into the back of an ambulance with little explanation.

The alarming nature of the situation left Maliszewska confused, fearful of her safety, and “crying like crazy.”

The “traumatic” series of events left the former European champion shaken and she admitted she slept in her clothes out of fear of being disturbed and moved again.

“That night was a horror. I slept in my clothes because I was afraid that someone would take me back to solitary in a moment,” she told Eurosport.

2022 Beijing Olympics – Short Track Speed Skating – Training – Short Track Training Venue, Beijing, China – February 7, 2022. Natalia Maliszewska of Poland during training. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Covid-19 confusion

Maliszewska took another Covid-19 test after being removed from isolation and the results were positive. However, she was still told she could compete in the 500m heats that evening.

After preparing for the event in which she is ranked third in the world, the skater was given another change of direction and informed she in fact could not compete after all.

“I got the message like half [an] hour before I was going to warm up that they made a mistake,” Maliszewska said. “Like the organisation made the mistake and I cannot compete because I’m dangerous to people.”

Then, in a follow up test, the Pole returned negative results to coronavirus and was cleared to compete in future Beijing events.

DORDRECHT, NETHERLANDS – FEBRUARY 15: Yu Bin Lee of South Korea, Zhang Chutong #45 and Yuting Zhang #118 both of China and Natalia Maliszewska of Poland lead in the Ladies 1000m final during the ISU World Cup Short Track at on February 15, 2020 in Dordrecht, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Confused and frustrated with the situation, Maliszewska admitted she no longer trusts the legitimacy of the Covid-19 testing process.

“I don’t believe all those tests now. I want explanations from the people who made me feel not safe, because nobody is saying anything now. They’re silent.”

After missing the qualifying rounds of her favoured 500m event, it seemed as though the stress had become too much for the 26-year-old.

Maliszewska hinted that she would be withdrawing from the Winter Olympics following a recent social media post stating she had “been living in fear for over a week.”

However, the Polish skating star has committed to seeing out the Games and will be competing tomorrow afternoon in two events.

2022 Beijing Olympics – Short Track Speed Skating – Training – Short Track Training Venue, Beijing, China – February 7, 2022. Natalia Maliszewska of Poland talks to Kamila Stormowska of Poland during training. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Valeria Vasnetsova has also hit out at the isolation conditions in Beijing.

The Russian biathlon competitor complained about the standard of food she was receiving and said she was “very pale” and suffering from stomach pains.

“I want all this to end,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I cry every day. I’m very tired.”

Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans also told of how she was made to further isolate after previously being in quarantine, despite returning three negative tests.

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