Last Friday (16th July), a Ugandan athlete who traveled to Japan in the hopes of competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics had gone missing from his hotel near an athletic training camp, after he failed to meet the qualifying standards.
The athlete, known as Julius Ssekitoleko (who represents the country for weightlifting), left a note saying he wants to remain in Japan due to the hardship factors of living in his home country, officials on duty claimed.
It was reported that Julius had fled his hotel in Izumisano, Osaka. The officers failed to detect his whereabouts when they arrived at Julius’ room to get the Covid-19 sample from him. For those curious, every representative and athlete from foreign countries were required to send their test sample in the morning, but they didn’t receive Julius’ sample by noon.
Uganda’s chef de mission Beatrice Ayikoru revealed that Julius was actually expected to advance to the Olympics. However, he failed to meet Olympic standards in the latest international rankings, and was due to return home with his coach earlier on Tuesday (20th July). “We are aware that every athlete is not allowed to leave the camp and needs permission from the officials here. We will work with the officers here to search for Julius,” Beatrice commented.
In a more recent update, Beatrice informed that the weightlifter has been found and is being interviewed by the authorities. Guardian reported that Julius was spotted in the city of Yokkaichi, which is located “105 miles east of his host town in western Japan”.
“He has been located and is with the (unspecified) authorities in the office in Izumisano,” she said in a brief video statement. “We are working together with our embassy in Tokyo to ensure that he flies safely to Uganda.”
The Uganda Embassy in Tokyo also confirmed that they were trying to arrange a flight back to Uganda for the athlete as early as today (Wednesday, 21st July). “Any issues to do with alleged absconding from the duty he had been flown to perform in Japan and related disappearance from the training camp, will be handled appropriately on his return to Uganda,” they stated.
The rising number of positive Covid-19 cases among foreign athletes arriving in Tokyo have sparked concerns of increased transmission of the deadly virus in the country. As a precaution, this year’s Olympics games will be held without the presence of audience and spectators.