Olympic test event in China called off amid travel concerns

World

From left, second placed, Mariama Jamanka, and Kim Kalicki and first placed Laura Nolte, all of Germany celebrate during the award ceremony of the two-woman Bobsled World Cup race in Sigulda, Latvia, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov)

BEIJING  (AP) — Another test event for the 2022 Beijing Olympics was called off Saturday, when bobsled and skeleton officials canceled plans to have a training week and World Cup race on a newly built track to end this year’s sliding season.

The decision comes just days after luge officials also canceled that sport’s season-ending World Cup and training week on the track built in Yanqing.

The reason, in both cases, was the same: ongoing concerns about international travel during the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China about a year ago.

In a letter sent to national federations Saturday, International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation secretary general Heike Groesswang said several weeks of conversations were held about how to move forward with the training week and World Cup “under the challenging circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic causes to all of us.”

The new schedule calls for a bobsled training week in early October and a skeleton training week later in October. That means many nations will likely have to choose some semblance of their 2021-22 national teams by the end of this season, since most of the world’s tracks won’t be iced and operating before those training weeks in China are held.

“A replacement for the World Cup in March 2021 will be announced next week,” Groesswang said.

USA Bobsled and Skeleton and USA Luge are sitting out the pre-Christmas portions of the World Cup schedules in those sports, as are several other nations, because of concerns about international travel and other pandemic-related issues.

In a women’s World Cup bobsled race in Latvia on Saturday, only six sleds finished the two runs. That was believed to be the smallest World Cup field since women began competing on the circuit.

It’s been tradition for at least the last five Olympic cycles for a World Cup event to be held on that track that will host the games the following winter, and those races have been critical in terms of teams collecting data and formulating an Olympic strategy.

But not having the training weeks and World Cups in China could raise the possibility of some nations, the U.S. included, not competing internationally at all this season.

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