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OTTAWA – Athletics Canada announced today that it will not be sending a team to the World Athletics Relays Silesia 21 scheduled to take place in Chorzow, Poland, from May 1 to 2. The decision to withdraw from the event was made in light of the COVID-19 situation in Poland, across Canada and around the world, in addition to the increased risks associated with travelling at this time.
The relay squad has been in Baton Rouge, La., over the past week to participate in its annual relay training camp. The goal was to hone their passing skills and to get in a couple of races at Louisiana State University before a final decision needed to be made.
“The safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority,” said Athletics Canada’s High Performance Director Simon Nathan. “Though showing signs of improvement, Poland is reporting a very high level of COVID-19 and travellers are strongly encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel in and out of Poland, even those who are fully vaccinated. Most of the Canadian team is not vaccinated, neither are most of the people who will be involved with the competition, therefore, there are increased risks associated with gathering alongside others from different parts of the world. We know this is disappointing news given the implications it may have on qualifying for the Olympic Games; however, we made this decision with our team’s health and safety at heart.”
“If an athlete were to contact COVID-19, it will compromise their preparation for Tokyo – even if they are asymptomatic – as they will be required to self-isolate,” said Nathan. “It will also compromise everyone with whom they have had close contact with, as they will have to isolate regardless of their symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test. These issues are magnified for a relay team, as compared to individual events.”
 Upon return from Poland, many Canadian athletes would face a mandatory quarantine period, while others would face uncertainties over their ability to return to the United States for training and competition. With the focus on Tokyo, and what Canadian athletes need to accomplish to achieve the required entry standard or World Rankings points, the risk of travelling to Poland far outweighs the reward.
Athletics Canada had entered teams in the 4×100-metre (men’s and women’s) and the 4×400-metre relay (women’s and mixed) with the hopes of securing a spot at the Olympic Games by advancing to the final. At this time, the only Canadian team guaranteed to be on the start line in Tokyo is the women’s 4×400-metre relay team that placed eighth at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.
“As long as the results in Poland leave spaces for other teams to qualify, we still have time to arrange races and to qualify for the Games via the World Athletics Top Lists,” said Athletics Canada’s Head Coach Glenroy Gilbert. “Heading into World Relays, the men’s 4×100-metre relay team currently sits in ninth, which we hope will be strong enough to qualify regardless of the results, while the mixed 4×400-metre relay team is ranked 11th. The women’s 4×100-metre squad will face the greatest challenge, as it’s possible that weaker teams will qualify in Poland, pushing our team too far down the Top List. We know the decision to withdraw from World Relays is disappointing for our athletes, but we are committed to working with them to do everything possible to secure our place in Tokyo.”
Other countries, including Australia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States, have withdrawn from the Championships also citing safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, health risks and the need to quarantine upon return home as reasons for their decision.
For more on the World Athletics Relays Silesia 21, click here.
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