Badminton: Further blow for Thailand Open as top-seeded 'Minions' doubles pair withdraw

Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (left) and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon pulled out of the Thailand Open after Sukamuljo tested positive for Covid-19. PHOTO: MARCUS FERNALDI GIDEON/INSTAGRAM

BANGKOK (AFP) - Indonesia's men's doubles top seeds have been forced to pull out of next week's Thailand Open badminton tournament after one of them, Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, tested positive for the coronavirus, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) said.

The withdrawal of Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, affectionately known as the "Minions", is the latest loss for badminton's restart tournament, which is already missing the star-studded Chinese and Japanese teams over Covid-19 concerns.

Sukamuljo developed coronavirus symptoms last month, including a loss of taste and smell and a mild flu, according to the BWF website.

After testing positive he has been recovering in isolation at his home.

"Thank you for your prayers and support, I hope I can recover quickly and be able to train again as before," he said.

"This is also a lesson for me to always be vigilant in the future."

The Thailand Open is the first of three tournaments scheduled to take place in Bangkok in consecutive weeks, kick-starting the world tour after a coronavirus-ravaged 2020.

However, heavyweights China withdrew when coronavirus rules prevented them from leaving the country, Thailand's badminton chief told AFP.

And Japan were forced out after men's world No. 1 Kento Momota tested positive before departure.

However, on Wednesday (Jan 6) the BWF said all 824 people including players, coaches and umpires, living in "bubble" conditions in Bangkok, have tested negative and were cleared to train under strict safety protocols.

Thailand initially appeared to have escaped the worst of the virus, registering just under 4,000 total cases by November, despite being just the second country to detect an infection early last year.

But an outbreak last month at a seafood market has mushroomed, with infections now detected in 56 of the kingdom's 77 provinces. The caseload had risen to 9,331 by Tuesday, with 66 deaths.

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