The southern Pacific island nation of Samoa has withdrawn its weightlifting team from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country's Olympic committee said Thursday.
Radio New Zealand reported earlier that Samoa's government had decided the previous day to withdraw the nation from the games entirely due to the number of new virus cases Japan is logging each day.
Patrick Fepulea'i, president of the Samoa Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee, said in a statement that three athletes comprising the country's weightlifting team who are currently based in Samoa will not participate, but eight other Samoan athletes who have qualified for the games and are based overseas will.
The eight -- two in Australia, four in New Zealand, one in the United States and one already in Japan -- will represent the island nation in boxing, sailing, canoeing, athletics and judo.
After the Olympics, they will return to their respective bases, rather than to Samoa, the statement said.
"We fully understand the logic behind the government decision, especially the need to protect Samoa from the virus, especially the new mutation now spreading around the world," the statement added.
Samoa had already canceled pre-Olympic training camps for its men's and women's rugby sevens teams -- neither of which ended up qualifying for the games via the recent repechage tournament -- and weightlifting teams that were set to take place in Iwaki, a city in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture.
Samoa is a small island nation in the South Pacific with a population of approximately 198,000.
Weightlifter Ele Opeloge is the only person representing Samoa to have won an Olympic medal. She took home silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the women's over 75-kilogram category.