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Pairs skaters Eric Radford, Vanessa James get negative COVID result, will compete at Olympic trials

Canadian pairs skaters Eric Radford and Vanessa James have received negative COVID-19 results and will compete.

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Internationaux de France
Eric Radford and Vanessa James have reason to celebrate, as a negative COVID test has opened the door to competing at the Canadian Olympic Trials.
Photo by Joosep Martinson - International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images

Update Jan. 6: Eric Radford and Vanessa James have both tested negative for COVID-19 after contracting the disease last month. They told Devin Heroux that they will compete at the Olympic trials for a spot on Team Canada.

From Jan. 5: Eric Radford, an openly gay pairs figure skater from Canada, and skating partner Vanessa James are both recovering from COVID-19 and they hope it doesn’t keep them from making the country’s Winter Olympics team.

Radford, who has won a gold, a silver and a bronze medal in the Olympics, tested positive for the coronavirus on Dec. 26 and James on Dec. 23 and both are symptomatic, with Radford feeling worse than James. Being in isolation has kept the pair from training for the Canadian skating trials being held this week, potentially jeopardizing their Olympic chances.

“Preparing for any competition, and especially the Olympics is difficult enough,” Radford told the Toronto Star. “It’s one of the most stressful times of an athlete’s life. Vanessa and I — and I think every athlete is probably thinking and feeling the same thing right now — there’s this invisible minefield laid out in front of you over the next few weeks, as you try to dodge COVID and not become positive in the next couple of weeks, while trying to train for one of the biggest moments of your life.

“There are already stories rolling in about COVID dashing Olympic dreams. I hope athletes are being as vigilant as they possibly can over these next couple of weeks.” ...

“It’s a strange thing to say, but it’s almost better timing that we got it now … possibly preventing a positive test heading into Olympics,” Radford said. “A lot of all of these athletes are all in the same boat. And we all are hoping and wishing the best for everybody else.”

The pair will decide by Thursday if they will compete in the trials, but if not they can still be selected to the Olympic team based on their performances this season.

The Olympics start in Beijing with the opening ceremony on Feb. 4 and national teams have to be finalized in the remaining weeks.

With the highly contagious Omicon variant setting new case records worldwide and with China adopting strict Olympic protocols, staying coronavirus-negative is as big an issue for athletes as is their sport-specific training. That’s why Radford is correct to say that, assuming he and James recover and are on the team, testing positive when they did might prove to be a blessing in a weird way.