Women's field hockey team back in Canada after getting stuck in South Africa as omicron emerged
Team was stranded due to restrictions surrounding omicron coronavirus variant
A long ordeal for Canada's junior women's field hockey team has come to an end, as the team quarantines in a Toronto-area hotel after being stranded in South Africa due to restrictions around the omicron coronavirus variant.
The women arrived home Thursday following more than a week of uncertainty.
"It's actually such a relief to finally be back home on Canadian soil," said Jenna Berger, one of two team members from Waterloo. "Just finally being able to get a hug from your parents after everything you've been through, because it was extremely hard, emotionally and mentally on all of us athletes."
The team arrived in Potchestroom, about 120 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg, in late November to play at the junior World Cup starting Dec. 5.
But the event was cancelled as travel restrictions around the omicron variant came down — and the team was without an immediate flight home.
Canadians travelling from South Africa are required to have a pre-departure COVID-19 test result from a third country before continuing home. After receiving a travel exemption from the Canadian government, the team was able to leave Johannesburg on Wednesday, transferring through Frankfurt, Germany, before arriving in Toronto.
Berger said the players are now isolating in a hotel until they receive the results of their COVID tests.
If a test is positive, that player will remain in the hotel to quarantine. Otherwise, they'll get to quarantine at home.
'It was unbelievable'
In the past few days, parents and supporters have pulled together to bring the players home.
"I think all the families have all reached out to their MP," said Liz Berger, Jenna's mother. "I think we all got emails or phone calls saying they're going to support us, they're going to see what they can do for us."
Jenna said it was the calls and letters of support from ordinary Canadians that impressed her most of all.
"It was unbelievable," she said. "We're really thankful."