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7 Feb, 2022 08:49

‘Tragicomic’ scenes as Russian & Canadian Olympic hockey stars play in masks

Players wore masks in bizarre scenes in the women’s ice hockey tournament at the Beijing Olympics
‘Tragicomic’ scenes as Russian & Canadian Olympic hockey stars play in masks

Russian and Canadian female ice hockey stars were required to don medical masks during their game at the Winter Olympics in chaotic scenes in Beijing.

Players and officials took the measures after the match was initially delayed by more than one hour, as Canadian players reportedly refused to take to the ice without receiving the Covid test results from the Russian counterparts.

The game only started after the intervention of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

It was reported by Russia’s Match TV that the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had unilaterally altered Covid-19 regulations, ordering players to conduct testing in the morning.

According to reports, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team held testing three hours later after breakfast, and arrived at the arena without having documents confirming negative results.

Canadian players reportedly staged a protest, threatening to boycott the game and causing a serious delay.

In an apparent compromise, players and officials agreed to wear protective medical masks on the ice.

How did I feel playing in a face mask? It was unusual, but we have to adjust to the requirements implemented by the organizers and play like we can. I’m thankful, we were allowed to play after all,said Russian forward Alexandra Vafina.


Players were allowed to take off their face masks only in the third period after the Russian team finally received negative Covid test results – although the Canadian team kept their face coverings on.

Canada – who along with the US team are the favorites for the title – ended up winning the game comfortably with a 6-1 scoreline.

But in a further twist, soon after the game the ROC team’s head coach, Yevgeni Bobariko, said that three members of his team – Victoria Kuleshova, Elena Dergacheva and Angelina Goncharenko, who didn't play against Canada, had tested positive for Covid.

According to the ROC, a Canadian player had also been sent back to the hotel prior to the game after receiving a potential positive test result.

The ROC Twitter account described the scenes as "tragicomic."


The ROC team’s preparations had already been thrown into chaos when six members of the squad tested positive ahead of their first game last week against Switzerland, which the depleted team still went on to win 5-2.

The ROC has since lost to Group A rivals and defending champions the USA and now Canada, although all five Group A teams will qualify automatically for the quarterfinals due to their world rankings.

Monday’s scenes in the Chinese capital follow similar confusion on Sunday, when Australian curler Tahli Gill was allowed to compete despite a Covid-19 test.