Alpine Canada sending teams home amid growing COVID-19 concerns

·2 min read

Alpine Canada is returning some of its teams back home amid growing concerns over COVID-19 in its training centre of Switzerland.

The organization said in a statement to CBC Sports Wednesday that athletes would be returning to Canada due to rising numbers of the virus in Europe.

"The health and wellbeing of our athletes and coaches comes first, always. The prevalence of COVID-19 in Europe has necessitated changes to Alpine Canada's training plans, including the decision to relocate some teams to Canadian venues where athletes can take part in on-snow training in anticipation of World Cup races and the World Championships," Alpine Canada said.

Earlier Wednesday, a CTV News report stated that multiple members of the ski cross team, which falls under the Alpine umbrella, had contracted the virus, including one who was seriously ill. CBC Sports has not independently confirmed the report.

Alpine Canada did not confirm whether its team members tested positive.

"Alpine Canada continues to be guided by robust health and safety protocols, reflecting public health regulations and guidance. Respecting individual athletes and coaches' right to medical privacy we will not comment on rumour or speculation regarding personal health matters," the statement continued.

The ski cross World Cup season is scheduled to begin Dec. 4 in Val Thorens, France.

An earlier Alpine Canada statement, sent to CTV News, said the team was returning to Canada for logistical reasons and that races across November and December have been postponed or cancelled.

Virus hot spot

Switzerland is currently considered a COVID-19 hot spot, with 10,073 new cases and 84 new deaths reported across the country on Tuesday.

The ski cross team has been training in Saas Fee, Switzerland, which is a popular pre-season site for many countries including Canada because of its high-altitude glacier and vast ski terrain.

Cases of infection are rising in the Valais region where the resort is located, which has prompted a recent increase in gathering restrictions and business regulations.

"Valais is currently the canton in Switzerland most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic," the canton government said in a statement on its website.

Reigning Olympic men's ski cross champion Brady Leman of Calgary returned to Canada last week.

He told The Canadian Press in a text he isn't sick while he's serving his mandatory 14-day quarantine at home.