Germany uses three-player team after COVID-19 issues at world curling playdowns

The Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. (file)

Germany used a three-player team for its opening draw at the LGT World Women's Curling Championship on Friday morning after being given late clearance to compete.

The shorthanded lineup of skip Daniela Jentsch, vice Mia Hoehne and lead Analena Jentsch took on Russia's Alina Kovaleva in the curling bubble at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre.

The German team's playing status was uncertain until late Thursday after two of the five team members tested positive for COVID-19 in pre-competition screening upon arrival in Calgary.

Normally a team must use four players but the WCF granted the rink an exemption at the 11th hour.

The federation felt the situation qualified as an “extenuating circumstance” under competition rules, which allowed the Germans to compete with a three-player lineup.

The April 30-May 9 competition is the main qualifier for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The two athletes who tested positive have remained in isolation. German second Klara-Hermine Fomm and alternate Emira Abbes were not available to play Friday.

The 14-team event was given the green light to go ahead by public health officials on Wednesday. All other players and team members have regularly tested negative over the last week.

Canada's Kerri Einarson was scheduled to play her opening game Friday afternoon against reigning Olympic champion Anna Hasselborg of Sweden. Einarson, from Camp Morton, Man., was to face Anna Kubeskova of the Czech Republic in the evening.

The German athletes who are able to play must undergo rapid testing and have a PCR test done every morning, the WCF said. Their teammates who remain in isolation will continue to be “medically managed” by competition medical officials, the federation said in a statement.

The two positive COVID-19 cases forced organizers to cancel Wednesday's opening practice session at the Canada Olympic Park venue. Thursday's practice went ahead but the Germans were not cleared to participate.

Four-person curling teams bring an extra player, called a fifth or an alternate, to major championships to draw into the lineup in the event of illness or injury. Three-player teams are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to sweeping.

The women's world championship is the seventh and final competition to be played in the curling bubble. Three domestic competitions preceded the world men's championship and two Grand Slam events.

There was a COVID-19 scare during the world men's playdowns but four positive test results were later deemed to be false positives. The penultimate day of competition was postponed and players wore face masks when they returned on the final day.

Players did not wear masks Friday morning on the field of play.

Teams are confined to the arena and tournament hotel across the Trans-Canada Highway. They drive themselves back and forth.

The 2020 world championship was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Chelsea Carey skipped the Canadian entry in 2019 at Silkeborg, Denmark, but did not make the six-team playoff cut. Jennifer Jones was the last Canadian skip to win this event, taking gold in 2018 at North Bay, Ont.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2021.