By Will Jennings in Beijing
Steve Arnold’s Paralympic debut is on the razor’s edge after testing positive for Covid-19.
The Nordic skiing star was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s sprint biathlon after retuning the positive result before leaving for China.
All athletes and participants in the Games must provide two negative PCR tests within 96 hours before flying to Beijing, the second of which must be carried out in a Chinese state-approved laboratory.
Former Army Sergeant Arnold, 42, was preparing for his long-awaited Paralympic debut after missing out on PyeongChang 2018 and his options for the rest of the Games are now being considered.
Although he missed the sprint biathlon in Zhangjiakou, Arnold is also due to compete in the sitting biathlon and cross-country skiing events at the end of this week and could therefore still fly to Beijing if he fully recovers.
Phil Smith, ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for Beijing 2022, said: “I know this is bitterly disappointing news for Steve after all the hard work he has put in to make the team in such a demanding sport.
“Athlete health and wellbeing is our top priority and we have a comprehensive wellbeing plan in place to ensure Steve has all the support he needs as we continue to work with him to assess if he is able to compete in events later in the competition schedule.
Arnold prepared for the Games by finishing in the top ten at the World Championships in Lillehammer and was determined to ensure that his one shot on the big stage – he will be 46 when Milan-Cortina 2026 takes place – counts. .
The former para-cyclist suffered his injuries while serving in Afghanistan in 2011 before finally taking up Nordic skiing – consisting of biathlon and cross-country skiing – in 2017.
He narrowly missed selection for the Games four years ago but was due to be part of a 24-person GB Paralympic team in Beijing – the biggest for a Winter Games since Lillehammer 1994.
After earning his selection, Arnold, one of more than 1,000 athletes able to train full-time, have access to the best coaches in the world and benefit from technology, science and state-of-the-art medical support thanks to vital funding from the National Lottery, said: “It’s an incredible feeling.
“A tremendous amount of hard work has gone into this. I just missed out in 2018 – I got into the sport too late and needed to do too much to get there, so I had so much drive and determination to compete and get there this time.
“At the time to miss it was very disappointing. I found it difficult for the first two months after that, but looking back I probably wasn’t ready. Four more years of training was definitely what I needed.
“I’m not getting any younger, I’m 42 and I only started this sport at 37. Most people then think of retiring rather than going to their first Paralympic Games.
“I put a lot into it, and this will probably be my one and only chance…”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise over £30million every week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact of playing the National Lottery on www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes