Italian swimmers locked up in Alpine resort

The high-altitude training would have been an ideal preparation for the Olympics. Instead, 13 elite athletes are locked in their tiny hotel rooms for COVID.

Gabriele Detti, a gold-medal contender in both the 400- and 800-meter freestyle, is also isolating in the hotel.   -  FILE PHOTO/AP

The high-altitude training camp in the Alps was supposed to represent ideal preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.

Instead, a large portion of the Italian swimming team — 13 elite athletes — has been locked in their tiny hotel rooms for nearly two weeks with the coronavirus.

Meals are left on trays outside their doors and the athletes are not permitted to leave.

"I don’t know exactly what prisoners’ lives are like but we are confined," Gabriele Detti, a gold-medal contender in both the 400- and 800-meter freestyle said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

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"It’s a bit like home arrest."

Italian swimmers have been traveling to Livigno, which is located near the Swiss border at an altitude of nearly 2,000 meters (6,000 feet), for years in order to acquire a performance boost for their muscles through the addition of more red blood cells.

Now, though, the question is what effect remaining virtually immobile for so long at high altitude will have on their fine-tuned bodies.

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"I’m afraid that everyone could lose muscle mass," said Stefano Morini, one of three of the team’s staff members to also test positive and be put in quarantine."

"When we restart we’ll have to start all over like it’s an entirely new season."

The hotel rooms are so small that the most the athletes can do is some basic floor exercises.

"If we put an exercise bike inside then we would have to get out just to make room, " said Morini, who is also Detti’s uncle.

"We gave them some exercises to do and some of the athletes have told us they are doing them. But we can’t go in to check. I have to talk to them by phone."

Simona Quadarella, a world champion like Detti, is also among those isolated inside the Hotel Primola.

The others are: Federico Burdisso, Martina Rita Caramignoli, Marco De Tullio, Stefano Di Cola, Sara Gailli, Edoardo Giorgetti, Matteo Lamberti, Alessio Proietti Colonna and Mattia Zuin. Simone Sabbioni and Alice Mizzau, two more Italian swimmers from a different club, are quarantined in another hotel.

All of the swimmers tested negative when the training camp began on October 11. Then Sabbioni and Mizzau started feeling sick and Giorgetti came down with a bad case of diarrhea, so new tests were ordered for the entire team.

All of the swimmers tested positive again in the latest round of tests on Thursday, although they are now all asymptomatic.

Olympic champion Federica Pellegrini, who was not in Livigno, also had the virus for two weeks before finally testing negative Thursday.

Italy hit another record of confirmed new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, approaching 27,000, a jump of nearly 2,000 in one day. The first Western country engulfed by the pandemic, Italy’s death toll of 37,700 remains second in Europe behind Britain.