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Canada’s Olympic focus remains despite coronavirus fears

Despite the growing number of cancelled sporting events, Canada’s Olympic athletes stay committed and focused on Tokyo, chef de mission Marnie McBean says.

In an interview with CBC News, McBean — who was named Team Canada’s top spokesman last July — has been in steady contact with the nation’s elite athletes. Until told otherwise, she says its full steam ahead to July. 24, and the starting of the Summer Games.

Her message: “Focus on your training. There isn’t a gold medal that was won without some element of chaos.”

McBean a three-time rowing gold-medallist has participated in two Olympics and attended several others.

There isn’t much, she says, that’s unfamiliar to her.

“The Olympics aren’t tomorrow,” McBean said. “H1N1 happened in 2009. The Vancouver Olympics were early in 2010 and we don’t remember the Vancouver Olympics being at all affected by that pandemic.

“The middle of the summer is a long way away. Reactions are going to expand and I think the same way we’re seeing in China, the reactions will contract.”

Nevertheless, the World Health Organization formaly declared the growing outbreak of COVID-19 sweeping the globe as a pandemic on Wednesday.

Fears of the virus have already led to the cancellation of several Olympic qualifying events and tournaments. Last week, the women’s world hockey championships slated to take place in Nova Soctia were cancelled. On Wednesday, the World Figure Skating Championships scheduled to take place in Montreal from March 18-22 were nixed.

Later that day, the NBA became the first of North America’s most prominent sporting leagues to suspend its season after a player tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

McBean, however, says athletes are a resilient bunch.

“If we go back to Sept. 11, everyone was saying ‘because of terrorism there is no way that the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics can go on – how can that be?’ Whether [it’s] Zika, H1N1, traffic … the host city isn’t [going to be] ready.

For McBean, the solution is rooted in teamwork.

“All countries need to be part of the solution here,” she said. “All international sports federations are trying to be a part of the solution — trying to decide whether or not there will be spectators.

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