"Across a season of fine margins, sitting out one of the four Grand Slams, a Grand Prix or two WSL legs is unthinkable. Or is it?"
One week ago, it was revealed here that the World Surf League had sent out letters to athletes ahead of the 2022 Championship Tour that must be vaccinated in order to compete on the entire tour. Per BeachGrit‘s source, “It sort of mirrors the U.S. government policy and Australian policy and the Australians are very tight on this. No pokey, no surfy.”
Now, Australian broadsheet The Guardian has confirmed that the country’s ultra-strict vaccination requirements will not be loosened even for superstar tennis players like Novak Djokovic. Even even for the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater.
Slater’s predicament underscores a looming dilemma for international sporting competitions. While Australia’s long-closed borders are now slowly reopening, the blanket ban on foreign arrivals is being replaced by vaccination requirements that are stringent by international standards. In sports notable for their globe-trotting – including tennis, golf, road cycling, Formula One, surfing and cricket – Australia’s entry requirements make being unvaccinated a significant competitive liability. Across a season of fine margins, sitting out one of the four Grand Slams, a Grand Prix or two WSL legs is unthinkable. Or is it?
“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews insisted recently, amid defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic’s ongoing disinclination to disclose whether or not he has been vaccinated. “And if they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks. But let’s not personalise it. I don’t think any other [unvaccinated] tennis player or golfer or Formula One driver will even get a visa to get here.” Djokovic has told the New York Times that he is not against vaccines generally, but does not agree with mandates – especially for the Covid-19 vaccine.
The paper detailed Slater’s, and other high profile athletes’, fight against mandates and how leagues around the world are making exceptions to accommodate but that state premiers, in Australia, will not buckle to the star power, the unique charms of Kelly Slater and keep him locked out of their Lucky Country.
The piece was ended thusly, “Slater’s rivals on the WSL will breathe easy knowing they have one less foe in the water at Bells Beach next Easter.”