Scottish cross-country skier Andrew Young contracted Covid perilously close to the Olympics despite doing more than most to avoid it.
The four-time Olympian tested positive in mid-January despite living a hermit-like existence that saw him leave his bolthole twice – to go to a shop and compete in a local ski race.
Young quickly shook off symptoms and got back into training, attending an essential altitude camp in Switzerland.
The Scot clearly shed the virus quick enough to come back negative on hyper-sensitive Chinese arrival tests and entered the closed loop here yesterday.
“I know how cautious Andrew’s been about Covid,” said Andrew Musgrave, his long-time training partner in Norway.
“Nobody knows how it’s even possible he got it! We started stressing quite a lot after that because if I managed to get it, it’s so, so easy to get.
“We already had ridiculously strict routines but I literally lived in my room for the rest of the camp and didn’t see anybody.”
Young and Olympic debutant James Clugnet have fancied their chances of challenging for a medal in the team sprint event. They finished sixth at a World Cup race in Dresden in December, the joint best-ever result from a British team.
Any loss of aerobic capacity is ruinous to nordic skiers but the early signs are that Young has regained his shape.
“Andrew was in super good form before he got it,” said Musgrave.
“It’s been a stress for him but having spoken to him quite a lot, he seems to have tackled it quite well.
“Fingers crossed he’s managed to maintain a decent form and that his sprint’s going to be okay. It will be very, very interesting to see how he goes the late arrival and not the ideal preparation.”
Musgrave was the only British starter in the first cross-country race at Zhangjiakou – the 30km skiathlon – in which he finished seventh four years ago in PyeongChang.
It was a different story this time, with Russian Olympic Committee’s Alexander Bolshunov delivering one of the most dominant displays in the sport’s history to take gold.
He came home 71 seconds ahead of compatriot Denis Spitsov in silver and the brutal pace proved far too much for Musgrave.
“It was ridiculous,” said the 31-year-old. “I wasn’t feeling too bad but in the classic section, Bolshunov went so ridiculously fast that I had to push a bit too hard.
“In altitude like this and on such abrasive snow, if you push a bit too hard, you’ve got no chance to recover. I blew up after three laps there! It was wild.
“The form Bolshunov is in at the moment is absolutely wild. We’re going to have to do something miraculous to beat him. You don’t get gaps like that in our sport.”
Musgrave’s focus is on the 50km mass start event that takes place on the penultimate day of the Games.
“It wasn’t the ideal start but I felt pretty alright on the skate section so I think I’ll be able to pull a good 50km out,” said Musgrave.
“I’m going to need a few days to recover after this because it was absolutely solid.”
Watch All the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 live on discovery+ , Eurosport and Eurosport app