Olympic golf medal winners Park, Ko unfazed by Japan virus surge

Singapore (AFP) –


Olympic gold and silver medallists Park In-bee and Lydia Ko said Tuesday they were not worried about playing at the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Games despite a surge in infections in Japan.

A new virus state of emergency in Tokyo and several other regions was announced last week just three months before the Games begin, although officials and organisers insist they will go ahead.

The HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore, which tees off Thursday, is shaping up as a warm-up for the Games as it features all the women's medallists from Rio 2016.

Ahead of the tournament, South Korea's reigning Olympic champion Park said she was not reconsidering her plans to play in Tokyo.

"I want to go to the Olympics again," she told a virtual press conference.

"Obviously, there are lots of people who are still very worried but from an athlete's point of view, I just think it's great the Olympics is happening.

"We've been waiting for it for four years, and it has been five years now."

The Olympics were originally due to take place last year but were delayed until 2021 due to the pandemic.

New Zealand's Ko, who won silver in Rio, added she was confident organisers would put in place stringent safety measures.

"I believe the IOC and everybody involved alongside Japan are going to make the right decisions in the lead-up to the Games," she said.

"The 2016 Rio Olympics was one of the best memories I've had -- on and off the golf course.

"Being part of the history where golf had not been played in the Olympics for over a hundred years was great, and I would love to be there again."

Rio marked the return of the sport to the Games after a 112-year absence. China's Feng Shanshan, who is also in the field this week, won the bronze medal.

Former number one Ko goes into the Singapore tournament -- the first LPGA event in Asia for almost 18 months because of the pandemic -- with huge confidence after ending a three-year title drought with a dominant seven-shot victory in Hawaii a fortnight ago.

"Winning in Hawaii definitely built that confidence for me to say that, hey, you know, I can be back in the winner's circle. It's great to be in that kind of a position again," she said.

The tournament, cancelled last year due to the virus, features six of the world's top 10 women golfers in the 69-player field, including world number one Ko Jin-young and defending champion Park Sung-hyun.

It is the first event on any international golf tour to take place on the world's most populous continent since the Asian Tour's Malaysian Open in March last year.