Russian Olympic women’s hockey team practices post-isolation
BEIJING (AP) — The Russian women’s hockey team held its first pre-Olympic practice Thursday after three days in isolation because of positive coronavirus tests and appears on track to play its tournament opener.
The Russians practiced without five members of their 25-player roster, leaving them with 18 skaters and two goaltenders on the ice. The official roster lists only 16 skaters and two goalies, though taxi squad players can be promoted to the team to fill the lineup.
Known in Beijing across all sports as ROC because of doping sanctions, the team is scheduled to face Switzerland on Friday.
“We were thinking about everything, but we were sure that no game’s going to be canceled,” forward Alexandra Vafina said. “We were not thinking, ‘Oh, we might not play.’ No, there was no conversation about that. We were just thinking how to get ready, how to be able to get ready more efficiently and better for the game.”
The Russian Hockey Federation said the team was quarantined Monday through Wednesday following positive virus tests for “several players.” Coach Yevgeni Bobariko said six players were in isolation: goalie Diana Farkhutdinova, defenders Angelina Goncharenko, Yekaterina Nikolaeva and and Liana Ganeyeva and forwards Lyudmila Belyakova and Olga Sosina.
The federation previously only named one player who tested positive: forward Ilona Markova, who was ruled out before she flew to Beijing.
Vafina said players are trying to keep teammates who tested positive in good spirits in the team’s group chat.
“I really feel so bad for those who tested positive because everyone could be in their spot,” said Vafina, who played at Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Calgary. “Of course we are worried about everything. We’re just doing all that disinfection stuff, we’re separated in our rooms and doing all the recommendations from the medical center. We’re doing whatever we were asked for and whatever we can, so we just hope for the best.”
Athletes need two negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart to be released from isolation. The Russians play their second of four round-robin games against the United States on Saturday.
Before the games begin, players were just happy to lace up their skates for practice after three days of quarantine.
“We didn’t know when we will be able to skate again, so today we are like extra happy to be on the ice,” Vafina said. “I’m full of extra energy because I was collecting it for three days. It was nice to be out, and we got (in) a good, hard skate. I’m really hoping and I’m pretty sure that we are ready to play.”
Defenseman Anna Shibanova said in Russian that players were nervous about the uncertainty of tests and the ability to be positive without symptoms. Asked if she’d be in favor of postponing the Olympics if it were possible, she said, “Taking our situation into account, it would be better to postpone.”
AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth contributed to this report.
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