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World figure skating championships canceled because of coronavirus concerns

Gold medalist free skater Nathan Chen, right, and bronze winner Vincent Zhou in 2019.
Gold medalist Nathan Chen, right, poses with bronze medalist Vincent Zhou after the men’s free skating competition at the 2019 world figure skating championships in Saitama, Japan.
(Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP / Getty Images)

The world figure skating championships, which were to be held in Montreal from March 16 through March 22, have been canceled because of concerns generated by the coronavirus outbreak. Danielle McCann, the minister of health and social services for the Canadian province of Quebec, made the announcement during a news conference on Wednesday.

The cancellation was the second for a major international competition that was to be held in Canada this year. The women’s world hockey championships, which had been awarded to Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, were canceled last week.

American skater Vincent Zhou said on Twitter, “Wow. Hard to put into words how torn I am right now. Half of me is shocked and disappointed that my hard work and training in the past few weeks ends this way, but the other half completely understands and respects the decision for the greater good. I hope everybody and their loved ones stay safe and healthy. Prayers to the affected. I will return next season more hungry and motivated than ever.”

The International Skating Union, the sport’s international governing body, said in a news release from its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, that the organization and the host committee, Skate Canada, had been informed by the government of Quebec that the championships would be canceled.

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“The ISU and Skate Canada have closely monitored the provincial and federal health authorities’ position on the spread of the virus and fully respect the difficult decision made today,” the ISU statement said.

It added: “Considering the current uncertain developments surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, a rescheduling and/or relocation of the above-mentioned Championships within the current season, even if the season would be extended by several weeks after its normal end in early April, cannot be reasonably considered. During the coming weeks, the ISU will evaluate in cooperation with all stakeholders whether the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2020 could possibly be held later in the year, but in any case not before October 2020.

“The ISU regrets that the most important Figure Skating Event of the season cannot be held as planned but the ISU also understands that the safety and well-being of all participants and the community take precedence and is sure that ISU members, Skaters and fans will understand this decision.”

The world figure skating championships bring together the top men’s and women’s singles skaters, top pairs and top ice dance duos. This year’s event was to feature American skater Nathan Chen’s attempt to win a third straight men’s title and his ongoing and riveting rivalry with Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, the two-time Olympic gold medalist.

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Next year’s world championships have been awarded to Stockholm, Sweden, and the 2022 event to Montpellier, France, so it’s unclear if or when Montreal might get another chance to host the event.

The world figure skating championships were last canceled in 1961, following the crash of the plane that was carrying the U.S. team to that year’s competition in the Czech Republic. The championships also were canceled during World War I and World War II.


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