Island players among national field hockey team stranded in South Africa due to virus variant

“We are now essentially stuck in South Africa with no flight options available to return home due to border closures and flight restrictions on South Africa.”

What was supposed to be a lifelong dream of a championship tournament has turned into a nightmare for the National Junior Girls field hockey team, which includes five Islanders.

Not only did the new Omicron COVID-19 variant cause a sudden postponement of the Junior World Cup in South Africa, which was scheduled for December 5-17, but it left the Canadian team stranded with most commercial flights to the departure from South Africa. canceled. The Canadian team arrived on November 21 and were doing their pre-World Cup training camp at North West University in Potchefstroom, about 130 kilometers from Johannesburg.

“Our under-21 team were devastated when hearing the news of the postponement, but saw it was the right decision,” said Canadian team manager Nancy Mollenhauer, two-time Olympian in Victoria. .

“The impact, however, goes far beyond the disappointment of the team and staff as we are now essentially stuck in South Africa with no flight options available to return home due to the border closures and flight restrictions imposed on South Africa As you can understand, this is a very stressful time for the young women on the team, as well as their families returning to Canada.

The Junior World Cup has been postponed to a date and location to be determined in 2022. Efforts are being made to bring the Canadian team home.

“Field Hockey Canada has reacted very quickly to try to find us flights to Canada, but so far we have had no success,” said Mollenhauer.

“We contacted the [world governing body] FIH for assistance as well as other South African contacts to see if they can do anything for us. Emails to the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria were also sent on next steps. “

Team members include Stefani Sajko, Libby Hogg, Nora Struchtrup and Tayler Guy, all of Victoria, and Jenna Goodman of Duncan. Sajko, Hogg and Struchtrup won the U Sports National Championship this month with the University of Victoria Vikes. Goodman plays for UBC and Guy for the University of Calgary.

“We are extremely devastated that the Junior World Cup has been postponed. All of us, the athletes and the staff, have worked very hard to get here, however, we understand that this decision is best for the health and safety of our global community, ”Sajko said.

“As we patiently wait to get home, we are very grateful to be in a safe place and to be hosted by the generous staff at North-West University. We are also very grateful for the support of Field Hockey Canada and everyone else at home for doing their best to get us back to Canada as soon as possible.

Canada qualified for the Junior World Cup in South Africa by winning the Americas regional qualifying tournament in September in Santiago, Chile. The players of the Canadian junior team are preparing for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032.

“It’s honestly been pretty crazy. We know everyone is doing their best in this pretty surreal situation, ”Struchtrup said:

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