China, HK shuttlers out of team event

Manila's coronavirus travel curbs rule teams out but Singapore commit to Asia championships

MANILA • China and Hong Kong have had to withdraw from this week's Badminton Asia Team Championships in Manila owing to the coronavirus outbreak, organisers announced yesterday.

The Feb 11-16 event is the Asian qualifier for the Thomas and Uber Cup championships later this year and also serves as part of the qualification process for this year's Tokyo Olympics.

On Feb 2, the Philippines widened its ban on travellers from Hubei province - or those who have been there 14 days before arrival - to all of China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Badminton Asia said in a statement: "The decision to impose the 14-day quarantine period for all travellers coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau has to be respected in view of the health and safety of the Philippines government for its people."

It added that India's women's team also withdrew "owing to concerns shown by the parents and players". But their men's team will play after they agreed to travel.

The tournament will lose much of its sheen with the withdrawal of China, a dominant force in badminton for decades.

Singapore's team will still travel to Manila for the competition.

Team manager Kenneth Khoo told The Straits Times yesterday: "Our team has been training hard in Singapore immediately after the SEA Games. Training has been per normal during this period as we took all the necessary precautionary measures and more.

"We emphasised much on personal hygiene, taking their temperatures often and insisted the players drink lots of water and rest well.

"The players are in good form and looking forward to the tournament."

The coronavirus epidemic, with over 42,000 confirmed cases in mainland China and more than 1,000 deaths, has had a major impact on the sports calendar in Asia.

The outbreak has seen Olympic qualifying tournaments for boxing, basketball, and women's football postponed, rescheduled or moved from China, while motor sports, hockey and tennis events have also been affected.

The world indoor athletics championships, which were due to be held in Nanjing from March 15 to 18, was arguably the biggest event to be affected by the outbreak.

The LPGA Tour, the elite women's professional golf circuit, said on Monday that it was cancelling tournaments in Thailand and Singapore later this month.

Formula One's Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff also said on Monday that he was still preparing for the Chinese Grand Prix, but health had to be the deciding factor.

The organisers of the April 19 race in Shanghai have yet to request a postponement or cancellation, even if F1 insiders increasingly doubt it will go ahead.

"Not going would be a shame. We had full grandstands last year, it was sold out," Wolff said at a news conference.

"But health comes first. That's the biggest priority."

The Shanghai sports authorities last week recommended the suspension of all sporting events in the city "until the epidemic is over".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'China, HK shuttlers out of team event'. Print Edition | Subscribe