Katie Lou Samuelson’s dreams of making history at the Summer Olympics came to a halt this weekend.
The Storm forward, who was placed in COVID-19 health and safety protocols on Saturday, was officially scratched Monday morning from the Team USA’s first-ever 3×3 women’s basketball team and will not compete in Tokyo.
Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young will replace Samuelson and join a U.S. team that includes former Washington Huskies star Kelsey Plum, Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray and Chicago Sky center Stefanie Dolson.
In an Instagram post, Samuelson said she was heartbroken about testing positive for the coronavirus particularly because she is part of the 99% of WNBA players who are fully vaccinated.
“I am devastated to share that after getting sick with COVID-19, I will not be able to go and compete in Tokyo,” Samuelson said. “Competing in the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and I hope someday soon, I can come back to realize that dream.
“I am especially heartbroken as I am fully vaccinated and took every precaution, but I know everything will work itself out in the way it’s supposed to. I wish nothing but the best to my USAB teammates as they go out there and crush it. I’ll be cheering you on every step of the way.”
In May, Samuelson, Plum, Gray and Dolson finished 6-0 and clinched a Olympic spot for Team USA at the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying tournament in Graz, Austria.
Samuelson, who won 3×3 gold medals at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games and the 2013 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup, was poised to become the first USA Basketball player to compete in a Youth Olympic Games and an Olympic Games.
However, a string of setbacks continues to plague the former University of Connecticut star who broke her foot as a freshman and underwent ankle surgery as a junior.
The 2019 No. 4 WNBA draft pick played her rookie season Chicago and second year in Dallas before the Storm swapped the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA draft with the Wings for Samuelson and its 2022 second-round pick.
Despite arriving late to training camp and missing five games to compete with Team USA, Samuelson has been a solid addition to the defending WNBA champions, which leads the league with a 16-5 record.
Samuelson is averaging 6.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 21.0 minutes – all career highs. She’s also shooting 45.3% from the field and 34.0% on three-pointers – both personal bests.
“Our hearts are broken for Lou,” USA Basketball 3×3 said in a statement on Twitter. “We thank her for her endless commitment to building up USA Basketball 3×3 & we will miss her dearly in Tokyo.”
Samuelson is one of the latest Olympic athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Tokyo Games, which officially begins Friday with the opening ceremony.
Other notable U.S. athletes to withdraw from the Olympics include basketball player Bradley Beal, tennis star Coco Gauff and gymnast Kara Eaker.
In addition, basketball standout Zach LaVine, the Renton native who starred at Bothell High, will not travel to Japan on Monday with the U.S. men’s basketball team because of health and safety protocols, the team announced. However, USA Basketball was hopeful he would be able to rejoin the team this week.
More than 15,000 people, including 11,000 athletes representing 200 countries, will arrive in Japan, which has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks and fueled concern whether the Olympics can safely be conducted during a global pandemic.
Last month, Olympic organizers announced the Tokyo venues will not have any spectators due to the city’s coronavirus state of emergency and recording its highest daily numbers of new COVID-19 infections in six months.
Public sentiment in Japan has soured on the 2020 rescheduled Summer Games, but International Olympic Committee officials insisted that they will create a COVID-safe Games.
“We are very well aware of the skepticism in Japan,” IOC President Thomas Bach said last week at the Games’ first press conference. “My appeal to the Japanese people is to welcome these athletes who are here for the competition of their lives and to acknowledge that is not for any price.
“They have the same interest as the Japanese people in ensuring these Games are safe and secure. And for this they accept and even welcome measures that make these Olympics the most restricted sports event not only in Japan but in the entire world.
“What will make the Games so historic is the demonstration that they can happen in a safe and secure way, even under the circumstances of this pandemic.”