Canada withdraws from upcoming World Relays in Poland over COVID-19 concerns

·2 min read
Canada has pulled out of the World Relays, scheduled for May 1-2 in Poland, citing COVID-19 concerns. Only the women's 4x400-metre squad, pictured, is guaranteed to be at the starting line for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics in July. (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters/File - image credit)
Canada has pulled out of the World Relays, scheduled for May 1-2 in Poland, citing COVID-19 concerns. Only the women's 4x400-metre squad, pictured, is guaranteed to be at the starting line for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics in July. (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters/File - image credit)

Athletics Canada has withdrawn from the 2021 World Athletics Relays, which take place next month in Poland, because of COVID-19 concerns.

The travel risks simply outweigh the rewards of competing at the Olympic qualifying event, according to Athletics Canada, though the move announced late Saturday is a blow to track and field athletes looking to achieve the Olympic standard three months from the start of the Games in Tokyo.

"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," Athletics Canada high performance director Simon Nathan said in the statement.

He added "there are increased risks associated with gathering alongside others from different parts of the world," especially since most of the Canadian team — currently attending a minicamp in Baton Rouge La. — isn't vaccinated.

1st global track event since start of pandemic

Canada was scheduled to send a team of 24 athletes to the two-day event. The United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Australia have also withdrawn from the competition for reasons related to health and the need to quarantine upon their return.

The only Canadian team guaranteed to be on the starting line in Tokyo is the women's 4x400-metre relay squad, which placed eight at the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Qatar.

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Besides the lack of competition, Canadian track and field athletes have been hit particularly hard compared to others across the world due to Canada's travel restrictions around the coronavirus pandemic.

The meet in Poland marks the first global track event since March 2020 and aimed to bring together over 1,000 athletes from 46 countries vying for spots at the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 world championships in Eugene, Ore.

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