Curling Canada cancels mixed doubles Olympic trials due to COVID-19 cases among athletes

Curling Canada cancelled its Olympic mixed doubles trials on Sunday due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases among athletes as well as the rapid spread of the virus throughout the country.

Tournament to decide Beijing representatives was slated to begin Tuesday in Manitoba

The Canadian Olympic mixed doubles curling trials were cancelled on Sunday due to concern over the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Curling Canada cancelled its Olympic mixed doubles trials on Sunday.

The rising number of COVID-19 cases among athletes, as well as the rapid spread of the virus throughout the country, "made it impossible to stage the event in a safe, responsible manner for athletes, staff and volunteers," the organization said.

The trials were scheduled to begin on Tuesday and extend through Sunday in Portage la Prairie, Man. The winning duo would go on to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics, which start on Feb. 4.

Curling Canada said its high-performance staff would now consult with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own The Podium, a Canadian organization that helps fund Olympic athletes, to determine the team that competes in Beijing.

The organization also said the quick spike in cases prevented the creation of a bubble to stage the trials, as it did in Calgary for a number of events including the Scotties and Brier earlier in 2021.

'Right call,' yet 'absolute gut-punch'

In a tweet, curler Chelsea Carey said Curling Canada made the "right call," but called the decision "an absolute gut-punch."

"The insane amount of time and money spent to qualify/prepare for this, all for naught," tweeted Carey, who was meant to compete in the trials alongside Colin Hodgson. "And curling isn't the only sport affected perhaps time to consider postponing the Olympics?"

It announced last week the trials would go ahead with spectators capped at 50 per cent of capacity in Stride Place and with athletes' movements limited to their hotel room, the arena and transportation to the venue. 

Arrangements are now underway for the refunding of tickets.

Canada's Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris won gold in the Olympic debut of the sport at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Lawes already booked her ticket to Beijing as a member of Jennifer Jones' rink, automatically ruling her out of contention in mixed doubles. Morris instead teamed up with fellow 2018 Olympian Rachel Homan.

Other notable pairs among the 16 set to battle in Manitoba included Lisa Weagle and John Epping, Chelsea Carey and Colin Hodgson, and Val Sweeting and Marc Kennedy.

Jones, the 2014 Olympic champion, and Brad Gushue, the 2006 gold medallist, will represent Canada in the traditional curling events in Beijing.

With files from The Canadian Press

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