British Columbia

Canada's stranded field hockey team has flights booked home from South Africa

The under-21 team has been waiting to travel home from South Africa since the Junior World Cup there was cancelled due to concern about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Team has been waiting to travel home since Junior World Cup was cancelled due to new coronavirus variant

The Canadian women's junior field hockey team were in South Africa for the Women’s Junior World Cup, scheduled Dec. 5-16 in Potchefstroom. It has since been cancelled due to concerns about the omicron variant. (@fhc_wolfpups/Instagram)

Canada's junior women's field hockey team could be headed home from South Africa next week.

The under-21 team has been waiting to travel home from Potchefstroom since the Junior World Cup there was cancelled due to concern about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Field Hockey Canada said on its website that the team has secured flights home from Johannesburg next Wednesday.

"[We] know things can change in either direction very quickly. Field Hockey is remaining optimistic that this will be the case and looking forward to travelling home," the website post said.

The Junior World Cup was scheduled for Dec. 5 to 17, but was cancelled last Thursday. Most commercial flights in and out of South Africa were suspended because of the omicron variant, leaving the players and staff without immediate travel home.

Sue Goddard is the mother of two players on the team, Nora and Arden Goddard-Despot. She said they were initially relieved to hear the flights were booked. 

"Then we started to think about how quickly things change during COVID and as parents, we're pretty anxious about if the travel corridor that they'll be going through will still be open," said Goodard on CBC's On The Coast. 

"I'm quite nervous about waiting till the 8th to get them back."

Goddard says support from her community and knowing the girls are safe are getting her through this time.

"We're trying to keep them focused on their future."

The team is being housed at North-West University in Potchefstroom, about 120 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg.

"The health, safety and well-being of our athletes and staff is the first priority. I'm happy to report that everyone is healthy and safe and trying to make the best out of a challenging situation," said Susan Ahrens, CEO of Field Hockey Canada.

"We are working with government representatives and our travel partners at Boulevard Travel to find the fastest and safest way to bring the players home as soon as possible."

Canada was the top-ranked team from the Pan Americas in the World Cup after winning the Junior Pan American Championships in Chile in August.

Sue Goddard is the mother of Nora and Arden Goddard-Despot, two players on Canada’s national junior women’s field hockey team.

With files from On The Coast

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