Two members of Canada’s snowboard delegation preparing to compete at an international event in Switzerland have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the entire Canadian men’s slopestyle team to miss the event.
They have been put into isolation and will not be competing in the annual Laax Open — an event that has massive Olympic qualifying ramifications this year.
“This is to inform you that two members of the Canadian delegation have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Laax Open, which is hosting FIS Snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle competitions this week,” the governing body posted to one of its press releases.
“At this point, the Canadian men’s slopestyle team has been put into isolation and will not participate in the Laax Open. In agreement with the FIS Event Task Force, all competitions will proceed as scheduled.”
Details are limited around what restrictions and protocols were in place to ensure the safety of the athletes competing, but on the International Ski Federation website it says, “a huge amount of time, energy, and infrastructure has been put in place to ensure the riders on hand are able to get down to business in the safest and most secure way possible at this all-important Olympic qualifying event.”
Canada’s top snowboarders were there to compete in the event —Mark McMorris, Seb Toutant and Max Parrot are all part of Canada’s men’s slopestyle team and are in Switzerland.
They had been posting to their social media in recent days about preparing for the event. They are all now in isolation.
Toutant won this event last season and was one of the favourites to win this year’s event.
Event still going forward
While the Canadian team is out, the event is still going forward as scheduled. The men’s slopestyle qualification is taking place Tuesday, followed by the men’s and women’s semifinals on Wednesday, and finals on Friday.
The men’s field includes 60 competitors from around the world — that number is now smaller due to the Canadians being out of the event.
This all comes just weeks before Calgary is planned to host hundreds of international skiers and snowboarders.
The 2021 freestyle ski, snowboard and freeski world championships, as well as a number of World Cup events, are provisionally being rescheduled to be held starting Feb. 24 and running until the middle of March.
At this point, the Government of Alberta still has not approved the event.
Canada’s snowboard and freestyle organizations are working with the appropriate Canadian authorities to obtain the necessary approvals.
“We continue to work in close collaboration with key partners around the potential of creating a winter sport bubble in Calgary to host multiple international FIS Freestyle, Freeski, Snowboard events this winter,” the federations wrote in an email to CBC Sports at the beginning of January.
There would be a number of events taking place over a month of competition including slopestyle, big air, halfpipe and freestyle ski moguls, dual moguls, aerials, and aerials team events.
With freestyle and snowboard events being cancelled across the world, the Calgary World Cup races could wind up playing a major factor in qualifying for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.