According to Japanese officials, a Ugandan weightlifter vanished from an Olympic training camp in Japan, leaving behind a note stating that he needed to find work.
Authorities are looking for Julius Ssekitoleko a Uganda weightlifter, 20, who failed to appear for a coronavirus test and was not in his hotel room, according to a statement from the host city of Izumisano.
According to Ugandan sports officials, the athlete recently discovered he could not compete because of a quota system.
Surveillance cameras at a local train station appeared to show the athlete, who was believed to have purchased a ticket to the city of Nagoya, officials added. However, it was unclear whether or not he had travelled there.
Ssekitoleko was last seen inside the hotel by a fellow athlete just after midnight.
He failed to do a necessary PCR test shortly after midday, and when he was not in his hotel room, the alarm was raised.
The head of the Ugandan Weightlifting Federation, Salim Musoke Ssenkungu, told AFP that Ssekitoleko had been training “extremely hard” for his first Olympic weightlifting competition but was notified last week that he could not compete and would have to return home.
“If someone is there in Japan and is assuming he is going to compete but then gets bad news, of course he is going to be upset,” Ssenkungu said.
He noted that the young athlete had recently earned a bronze medal at the Africa Weightlifting Championships and was regarded as experienced despite his youth.
“He’s not from a rich family so it took a lot of interest and energy from him to be successful,” Ssenkungu said.
According to Donald Rukare, head of the Uganda Olympic Committee, officials were recently alerted of the disappearance.
“We are also trying to find out (what happened). We are in contact with the team in Osaka,” he told AFP.
Uganda’s delegation landed in Japan last month on a pre-Games training camp in Izumisano, Osaka.
However, a coach tested positive upon arrival, and the rest of the group was instructed to self-isolate, with a second member later testing positive.
Virus cases are increasing in Tokyo, which is in emergency status, and infectious concerns associated with the Games are closely monitored throughout Japan.
Athletes and other Olympic competitors are subject to stringent standards, including frequent testing and mobility restrictions.
Teams at training camps are restricted to their lodgings and training grounds and cannot move freely or contact local inhabitants.
There have been accusations of some rule infractions by Olympic competitors. The government announced Friday that it had urged organizers to investigate and penalize anyone found to be breaking the rules.
The Games begin in a week, but spectators have been prohibited from all events in Tokyo and adjacent areas, with only a few sites outside the capital available to them.
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