On Wednesday morning, Athletics Canada made the decision to withdraw its team from the upcoming World Half-Marathon Championships set to take place this weekend in Gdynia, Poland. With 24 hours until their flight, athletes were notified that the team would no longer be participating. On the women’s side, Rachel Cliff was the lone Canadian representative and on the men’s side Canada was sending Trevor Hofbauer, Justin Kent, Ben Preisner, Thomas Toth and Phil Parrot-Migas.
This event was postponed in March due to COVID-19, but is now set to go on Saturday. Several other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, pulled out of the championship in September, citing safety reasons.
“This was a very difficult decision, but we think it is in the best interests of the athletes and the team staff,” Simon Nathan, Athletics Canada’s high performance director, said in a press release. “We know that this is disappointing news, but we have made this decision with our team’s health and safety at heart.”
While Athletics Canada officials were confident that WA was doing everything possible to protect participants, they felt there were too many risks that nobody could be expected to control.
“When we considered the risks associated with flying and transfers within airports, with the athletes being in publicly-accessed common areas like hotel lobbies and common dining areas, and the unknown of individuals’ compliance to safe protocols, we felt it was prudent not to expose our team to those risks,” said Dr. Paddy McCluskey, Athletics Canada’s Chief Medical Officer.
On Tuesday, Athletics Weekly reported that Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, and a favourite to win, has decided to pull out of the championship as well. She told AW, “It has been a tough year, the uncertainty of competitions going ahead was always part of my training regime. To focus and push yourself every day in training is difficult, especially when you don’t know if it will be possible to deliver performances in a competition environment. The season was short, but the lead up to it was long. Therefore I decided to give myself some rest and focus for next year. I want to make sure I will be in top shape physically and mentally next year at the Olympic Games.”
The women’s race will get underway on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET, followed by the men at 6:30 a.m. ET.