EQUIPMENT – The men’s world curling championships in Calgary remained on the defensive pattern of Saturday, missing the finish line due to a positive test for the COVID-19 virus.
Four members of three international teams tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Canada. They show no symptoms of the coronavirus.
A playoff match and a pair of semifinals were canceled on Saturday. The world championships are scheduled to close on Sunday with gold and bronze medal matches.
Four additional teams came into close contact with the infected individual.
The World Curling Federation and Canadian Curling await tests carried out on the remaining five playoff teams on Saturday to determine whether the championship can resume at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Center.
“We’re trying to solve this,” said Scott Arnold, head of development at WCF.
“We are doing everything in our power to do that, but we will have to wait for the testing to see if we actually provide it for us.”
The athletes and team personnel were quarantined in their hotel rooms on Saturday.
Shortly after Canada’s Brendan Bottcher was knocked out of the row by Scotland on Friday evening, WCF announced an infection had been detected among the participants and was suspending competition.
“Obviously devastated,” said Nolan Thiessen, director of broadcast, marketing, innovation, event presentation and athlete liaison at Curling Canada.
“Our friends, colleagues, team-mates, our broadcast partners, are completely devastated, but we will find out, find out what happened and see if we can still compete this season.
“Health and safety comes first and we will find out which side of the championship later.”
Alberta Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada approved Curling Canada’s plans to hold events in a controlled, closed environment from the general public.
The men’s world championships are the fourth event in the Calgary curling bubble after the Canadian men’s, women’s and mixed curling championships, where no cases of COVID-19 have been reported.
It is not yet known whether the positive cases at the world championships involve a variant of the virus, said Dr. Bob McCormack, who is the chief medical officer for the curling center.
Curling Canada adopted many elements of Hockey Canada’s operations at the world junior men’s hockey championships in Edmonton from December 25 to January 5.
International curling teams do not arrive in Canada on charter flights as hockey players do, but fly on a commercial basis.
A negative test taken less than 72 hours before traveling to Calgary is required.
Upon arrival in Calgary, athletes and team personnel began a week-long “managed quarantine protocol” with four separate tests conducted during that time span before the brace was allowed to compete.
The 14 teams, including 13 from other countries, kick off the men’s world championships on April 2.
Teams are confined to their arena and hotel across the Trans-Canada Highway, and self-drive back and forth.
Masks are mandatory outside hotel rooms and outside the playing field, and hand sanitizer is readily available, but the damaging corona virus has infiltrated the curly bubbles.
“We really judge that when we talk,” said Thiessen. “It’s part of the contact tracing process. We are trying to find out not only where it is spreading, but where it could be. “
WCF’s preference is to finish events on Sundays. Pushing it into the next week is a logistical nightmare for broadcast and property reasons.
A pair of Grand Slams, which are Rogers Sportsnet property and not Curling Canada’s, are scheduled to start Wednesday in Calgary.
The Humpty Championship Cup will be followed April 20-25 by the Girls Car Players Championship.
The tournament featured Canadian and international men’s and women’s teams, including four teams competing in the men’s championships.
Athletes who are not at a world championship will come to undergo testing and quarantine protocols for the Grand Slam, but do not join the world championship team.
“The athletes were at different locations completing their entry protocol for the Grand Slam,” said Dr. Danielle Kelton, onsite medic in Calgary.
“We are communicating with them and they are not in direct contact with any athletes who are currently in the bubble.”
The women’s world curling championship, moved from Switzerland to Calgary, from April 30 to May 9.
McCormack believes the virus-free bubble curl can be healed for future events.
“There are things that are not yet known that we need to resolve, but I am sure this will continue,” he said.
“Even though we have a problem with the men’s world, we have a chance to rebuild the same clean bubble with the Tournament of Hearts, which is different from the Brier, which is different from the Canadian mixed championships, which is different from the world.
“They are separate events, so I hope we can not only finish this event – it is a moving target – but we will be able to create new bubbles for the next safe event.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 10, 2021.