'Tragedy within a tragedy': Olympian dies of coronavirus days after father

Donato Sabia in action at the 1988 Olympics in Barcelona. (Photo by picture alliance via Getty Images)

Two-time Olympic 800 metres finalist Donato Sabia has died from COVID-19 at the age of 56, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) said on Wednesday.

CONI said in a statement that Sabia had been in the intensive care unit of the San Carlo hospital on Potenza, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, for “a few days.”

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Sabia finished fifth in the 800 metres at Los Angeles in 1984 and seventh in Seoul four years later.

He won the gold medal in the same event at the European Indoor Championships in 1984.

According to CONI, he is the first Olympic finalist in the world to die from the virus.

The Italian athletics federation (FIDAL), which described him as “an extraordinarily talented athlete but, above all, a gentle person”, said that Sabia's father had also died from COVID-19 a few days earlier.

“It's a tragedy within a tragedy,” said FIDAL president Alfio Giomi in a statement.

“Donato was a person who you couldn't not love.”

Donato Sabia #520 competes in the 800 metres at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)

Former rival and current IAAF president Sebastian Coe led tributes on social media.

“Deeply saddened by the loss of Donato,” Coe tweeted.

“A great runner taken from the athletics family too soon. My thoughts are with his family and with Italian athletics.”

Italy looks ahead as COVID-19 death toll slows

Italy reported its lowest daily COVID-19 death toll for more than two weeks on Sunday as authorities began to look ahead to a second phase of the battle against the new coronavirus once the lockdown imposed almost a month ago is eventually eased.

The toll from the world’s deadliest outbreak reached 15,887, almost a quarter of the global death total, but the rise of 525 from a day earlier was the smallest daily increase since March 19, while the number of patients in badly stretched intensive care units fell for a second day running.

“The curve has reached a plateau and begun to descend,” said Silvio Brusaferro, head of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy's top health institute.

"It is a result that we have to achieve day after day."

“If this is confirmed, we need to start thinking about the second phase and keep down the spread of this disease.”

The total number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus rose by 4316 to 128,948 - the lowest increase in five days, which added to signs the epidemic has reached a plateau, about six weeks after it broke out in northern Italy on February 21.

with Reuters and Yahoo Sports Staff