The moment it became apparent the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was spreading at an exponential rate, local organizers for the 2022 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship saw the writing on the wall.
There was always hope that things would improve enough in the ensuing months to pull things off, but on Friday, Curling Canada made it official.
The national organizing body for the sport announced four national tournaments scheduled over the next two months had been cancelled due to concerns surrounding the pandemic, including the Wheelchair Curling Nationals originally slated for Feb. 21-26 at the Moose Jaw Ford Curling Centre.
“I had a gut feeling once the numbers were going high in January,” said tournament chairman Moose Gibson. “We all know why they cancelled it, with the numbers being as high as they are right now they just didn’t think things would be safe for us in time. So, disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No.”
There was an immediate line of good news with the disappointment, though -- Curling Canada has simply rolled forward the tournament hosting duties for Moose Jaw, meaning wheelchair nationals will be here in 2023 and 2024.
“They know that Saskatchewan will support it, and certainly through the fundraising and gathering of the sponsorships. Moose Jaw is behind us,” Gibson said. “They want to see this happen here as much as we do, I think, and that’s very encouraging. It’s just bad timing, again.”
Curling Canada themselves expressed disappointment in the decision but offered optimism for future events.
“We all know the state of the world right now and the lack of clarity about what may or may not happen for the rest of the curling season, and ultimately it was decided that for the safety of participants and volunteers that these events had to be cancelled, which is a massive disappointment,” said Katherine Henderson, CEO of Curling Canada.
“These events are run by local host committees, who also assume much of the financial risk, so with the lack of clarity about how much revenue they could generate through attendance, and the obvious concerns related to the pandemic, it was determined in consultation with the host committees that we needed to cancel this year’s events.
“At the same time, we’re truly grateful that both Moose Jaw and Sudbury have graciously agreed to host these same events in 2023, so we can’t wait to see what both cities have in store next year.”
Preparations were in their final stages for the local tournament, with the two Saskatchewan teams regularly practicing at the Moose Jaw Ford Curling Centre. Gibson -- himself a member of the provincial team -- looks forward to seeing what the rinks can accomplish with another year of training under their belt.
“I'm so looking forward to showcasing all the athletes from across the country, because there are truly amazing curlers out there,” he said. “And we're fortunate we've got two of Canada's best here in Marie Wright and Gil Dash. Not too many clubs can say that, certainly from the wheelchair standpoint. It shows the program is moving forward and we’re looking forward to another shot at it next year.”
Also postponed on Friday were the Canadian University Championship and Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Championship, both of which were scheduled for Mar. 15-19, as well as the Mixed Doubles Championship which was slated for Mar. 22-27. All three events were to take place in Sudbury, which will now host the 2023 tournaments instead.