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Olympic speedskating trials to be held without fans, families due to pandemic

Allowing masked fans into the event would risk positive tests, with or without symptoms, among athletes, a PR and logistical nightmareGETTY IMAGES

Fans, families and friends "will not be allowed to attend" the U.S. long-track speedskating Olympic trials this week at the Pettit National Ice Center, and a small sample of reaction was a "mixture of sadness and frustration," according to Lori Nickel of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Former Gold Medal-winning U.S. speed skater Dan Jansen said, "The fans, that's one of the things you look forward to. We're not a sport, unless we're in the Netherlands or Norway sometimes, that is getting thousands of fans to come watch us every weekend and so it is one of the things you look forward to." Nickel notes what is not publicly known is "whether any athletes had tested positive for COVID-19 by the time USS made its decision." Also not known: "how many skaters tested positive Monday." More tests will be conducted toady, with racing set to begin tomorrow and continue through Sunday. It appears to have been a "tough, no-win situation" for the USOPC and USS with the Pettit officials "having little to no say in the decision." The options were to "allow masked fans into the event and risk positive tests, with or without symptoms, among athletes, which would be a PR and logistical nightmare; or, turning away fans and losing revenue and support" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/4).

VARYING APPROACHES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Louise Radnofsky notes U.S. Figure Skating is holding championships in Nashville and about 750 athletes, coaches, officials and media, and thousands of spectators "are all invited to come in person." The organization last month said that it "would seek proof of vaccination or a negative test taken within the previous three days for ticket holders." Fans "do not need to have had a booster shot." Vaccinated reporters "do need to show a negative test result as well." Masks "will be required in most circumstances," but skaters "do not have to wear them on the ice." Officials said that they have "placed limits on contact between athletes and fans." Meanwhile, Skate Canada has "locked down the event, refunding tickets, diverting media to virtual interviews and canceling the adjacent novice competition and gala" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/4).

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