B.C. travel restrictions could be a major road block for track and field athletes

BURNABY, B.C. — Some of Canada's top track and field athletes face another potential road block in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

Because of surging COVID-19 cases in B.C., athletes from out of province can't travel there to compete in the Harry Jerome Track Classic on June 12, which is a big blow to athletes hoping to achieve the Olympic standard in a competitive season reeling amid the pandemic.

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"We had been hoping that restrictions around competition and travel would be getting easier throughout the spring, but so far they are getting tougher," meet director Nigel Hole said in a letter to athletes and coaches.

"As of now, we are still planning on hosting the meet, and are committed to doing all that we can to hold it. We have the desire and the appetite to help as many 'high performance' and 'development' athletes compete as we can. We are in regular communication with BC Athletics and Athletics Canada to find creative, yet safe, ways of doing that."

According to B.C.'s Provincial Health Order, only athletes returning home to B.C. will be allowed to compete, and only after completing the required self-isolation or quarantine period, the email said.

Athletes coming from out of province must self-isolate for five to seven days and produce a negative COVID test result, while athletes coming from out of country must self-isolate for 14 days.

"We are of course hoping that . . . those restrictions loosen by June 12 so that more athletes are eligible to compete," Hole said. "Although it pains me to say this, out-of-province athletes should refrain from booking travel at this time, and may want to explore back-up options in the event that the current restrictions are still in place on June 12."

Athletics Canada recently announced a series of meets across Canada in an effort to provide opportunities for athletes to hit the Tokyo Olympic qualifying standard or accumulate valuable world ranking points that contribute to qualifying.

Athletics Canada high performance director Simon Nathan estimated recently that between half and two-thirds of its team is based in Canada. Numerous athletes have recently travelled to the U.S. for competitions, where COVID-19 restrictions are loosening.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2021.

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