The Dystopian Quarantines That Crushed Olympic Dreams

TOKYO—Ecuador’s David Hurtado walked thousands of kilometers on treadmills, tracks and roads lined with snow-capped mountains to prepare for Thursday’s 20 kilometer race walk in Sapporo. 

“Vamos por mas”—Let’s go for more—the 22-year-old posted on Instagram in June, along with a photo of his credentials for the Games and a bicep emoji.

“The preparation continues,” he said. 

Exactly a month later, Hurtado on July 24 posted another message on Instagram. “Today is my turn to confront Covid-19 in a hotel room in Tokyo,” he wrote. “It’s impossible not to think that this will put me at a disadvantage or even take me out of the Olympic Games.” He included a picture of himself, alone and holding up his country’s flag as he walked through an empty stadium. 

After all of the preparation that goes into getting to the Olympics, there was one thing Hurtado and more than 20 other unlikely athletes could not be prepared for: the mental strain of testing positive for Covid-19 after arriving for the biggest competition of their life. 

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