Big Bang absorbs Covid blow to programme

Main bout fighter, wrestler pull out on safety grounds in unprecedented development here

India's Ritu Phogat defeating Jomary Torres via technical knockout in the first round of their One: Big Bang atomweight mixed martial arts bout at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.
India's Ritu Phogat defeating Jomary Torres via technical knockout in the first round of their One: Big Bang atomweight mixed martial arts bout at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Two athletes were withdrawn from a sports event in Singapore owing to Covid-19 safety protocols for the first time yesterday.

This took place just hours before Ukrainian world champion Roman Kryklia was to take on Dutch-Turkish kick-boxer Murat Aygun in their light heavyweight title bout at One Championship's Big Bang event.

The fight had been earmarked as the main event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

It was replaced by the featherweight kick-boxing fight between Armenian-Belgian Marat Grigorian and Russian Ivan Kondratev, although Aygun remained on the card to face Anderson Silva in a light heavyweight kick-boxing match.

The programme was also disrupted when Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari of Iran failed to make his One Championship debut after he pulled out of his heavyweight bout against Russian Abdulbasir Vagabov for similar reasons.

An atomweight bout between Jihin Radzuan and Bi Nguyen, and a featherweight kickboxing clash between Andy Souwer and Zhang Chunyu were added to the card.

In a statement yesterday, One said: "Kryklia tested negative for Covid-19. However, he is under quarantine after coming into close contact with an individual who tested positive on Nov 27."

That individual is believed to be Kryklia's cornerman.

On Monday, One and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) had revealed that a cornerman had produced a positive result upon arrival here on Nov 27. He was sent to a hospital and is undergoing treatment.

In combat sport, cornermen can be trainers, coaches, cutmen, or training partners, and often spend a lot of time in close proximity to their fighter.

One added that both Kryklia and Aliakbari had tested negative for Covid-19 before flying into Singapore.

It added that while Aliakbari tested positive for Covid-19 before his fight, serological tests showed that this was due to a past infection.

He has been discharged from hospital but did not participate in last night's event as a precaution.

"Public health and safety remain our top priority," said One and STB. "This case was detected through the screening protocols and stringent measures that were put in place to safeguard the health of our local community as well as the athletes and production crew."

Big Bang is One's third show in Singapore since the coronavirus pandemic. It held a closed-door event on Oct 9 and another on Oct 30, which was the first live sports event here to welcome spectators.

Then, two positive cases were detected ahead of its Inside The Matrix event but both were cornermen, not athletes. They were determined to be past infections after serological tests and had recovered. They were kept out of the event as a precautionary measure but the programme was not disrupted.

One's events are part of a pilot project the Government hopes will help identify a model that can be widely implemented so that more large-scale events can resume safely in Singapore.

Stringent protocols have been adopted and include the requirement for all foreign-based athletes, cornermen and staff to be isolated until they receive a negative test result, after which they will follow a strictly controlled itinerary that has been pre-approved.

Like the Oct 30 event, Big Bang had up to 250 paid spectators and they had to undergo antigen rapid tests earlier in the day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2020, with the headline 'Big Bang absorbs Covid blow to programme'. Subscribe