New twist after controversial masked hockey match in Beijing
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) women’s ice hockey team has been hit with another positive Covid test after a contentious game against Canada in which players had to wear masks.
The ROC’s meeting with the Canadians was delayed by more than an hour on Monday after a hold-up in Covid test results arriving for the players.
The Canadian team were reportedly reluctant to take to the ice in the absence of the results from their rivals, although a compromise was reached when both sets of players agreed to wear medical masks underneath their helmets.
The results from the tests – which had been conducted in the morning – finally arrived ahead of the third period and came back negative.
That allowed the Russian team and officials to remove their masks for the remainder of the match, although Canadian players opted to keep their face coverings on throughout their 6-1 victory at the Wukesong Sports Center.
The scenes were widely described as farcical as several ROC players later said they had struggled to breathe, but on Tuesday there was a further twist as Russian coach Evgeny Bobariko said one of his players, forward Polina Bolgareva, had tested positive.
“Everyone witnessed how we played with Canada yesterday in masks and took them off after the second period, when we received the results of tests for coronavirus,” Bobariko told RIA Novosti.
“They were all negative. We arrived at the Olympic Village after the match with Canada and found out that Polina tested positive for coronavirus.
“I don’t know how it happened. Her morning test, which initially gave a negative result, suddenly turned out to be positive.”
The 23-year-old Bolgareva played around 16 minutes of the match against Canada and has scored three goals in three matches in the tournament in Beijing thus far.
The ROC team’s final Group A match is against Finland on Tuesday, which Bolgareva will be forced to miss.
The Russian team has already faced significant Covid disruption in Beijing.
Ahead of the team’s first match with Switzerland last week, six Russian stars tested positive. The team as a whole was forced to miss training sessions as a result but did beat the Swiss 5-2, before falling to tournament favorites the USA and Canada.
Before the match with Canada, ROC coachBobariko announced that three members of his team – Victoria Kuleshova, Elena Dergacheva and Angelina Goncharenko – had tested positive for coronavirus as they were forced to miss the match.
Each of the five teams in Group A will qualify for the quarterfinals due to their strong world rankings, and will be joined by three countries from Group B.
Officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) have pledged to work more efficiently with local organizers and health authorities to ensure there is no repeat of the scenes on Monday.