'I felt powerless': False positive robs Montreal ice dancing pair of shot at the Olympics

A competitive ice dancing pair that trains in Montreal missed out on a major Olympic qualifier after a false positive COVID-19 test.

Tina Garabedian and Simon Proulx-Senecal represent Armenia the international stage. They touched down in Stockholm a little more than a week ago to compete in the World Figure Skating Championships -- the top 19 pairs qualify for the Winter Olympics.

“We were ready to compete,” Garabedian said. “And then it just... ended.”

Hours before they were set to compete, Proulx-Senecal got a phone call that destroyed those chances: a COVID-19 test he took the day before had yielded a positive result.

“That test came back positive. I got the test Friday morning, the day of the competition. I was shocked right away,” he said.

In a last-ditch effort to remain eligible, he took a fast-tracked test, but didn’t get the result back — which was negative — until the day after the competition.

“It’s over, it happened, and it shouldn’t have happened,” Garabedian said. “That’s what I’m having trouble with.”

Proulx-Senecal described a feeling of helplessness, of “being quarantined in the room, not being able to ask anyone or be involved in the process... We were victims right from the start.”

But perhaps the most heartbreaking news for the pair came later, when they received documentation on the battery of tests they had taken to remain in the competition’s bubble.

“I was told the test was positive,” Proulx-Senecal said. “But when we actually got the result at the end of the competition, the result was negative. I was told the wrong information.”

Garabedian is grappling with the discovery.

“I’m still having a difficult time dealing with the situation and thinking this is what happened and this is what I’m left with,” she said.

It’s an especially tragic twist given how long they had prepared.

Because the pandemic postponed the competition a year, they had an extra year to prepare their routine. The theme of the competition was “Broadway Musical” and they had prepared a routine around the musical “Mamma Mia,” involving tunes by Swedish super group ABBA. In a similar competition three years ago, they finished 22nd. The Olympics cut off for the Olympics is 19.

“I had a hard time disconnecting from the experience,” he said. “Being in Stockholm, being away from my family, being away from my friends. We trained two years for that. And being ripped off that? Yeah, I felt powerless.”

Now the pair is going through Armenia’s sporting federation to petition the International Skating Union — which organizes the competition — to find some sort of solution.

“No matter what happens from this, I will never get to say that I competed at the World Championships in Stockholm,” Garabedian said.

They still have a shot to qualify for the Olympics through another competition in Germany in September.

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