Young athletes from Saskatchewan continue to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The recent cancellation of the Saskatchewan Winter Games means that almost 2,000 athletes in the province will miss out on a key competition, including roughly 100 athletes from the south east region.
The games, which were scheduled for February 20-26 in Regina, were called off late last week due to concerns surrounding the Omicron variant.
"It's heartbreaking," said Team South East Chef de Mission Tara Heslip. "It impacts their mental health and their confidence in themselves. I'm hopeful that there is going to be an ability to reschedule and to have this some time in the future...that those athletes still get the opportunity, and that their hard work is still recognized."
Heslip said she agrees with the decision to cancel the event.
"Really mixed emotions, because it's such an incredible experience for the athletes and really anybody who's volunteering, coaching, managing," she said. "But at the same time I guess there was maybe a bit of a sense of relief of knowing that with the COVID newest variant being quite transmissible, that it was the best decision for the health and safety of everybody involved."
Heslip added that the logistics of the games make it a difficult event to host during a COVID wave.
"In light of how the whole games work out with the athlete's village, there's just such a massive amount of people that are congregated at any given time, that those are obstacles that are really difficult to overcome," she said.
Heslip hopes her athletes can persevere through this latest adversity.
"Keep at it. There's always future competitions and opportunities, and whether that is Western Canada Games or Canada Games. Continue to excel at those sports and be a great teammate. Just because this games maybe hasn't worked out doesn't mean that future games won't for them."
The athlete age range for the Saskatchewan Winter Games is 11-18 years old.
Heslip also mentioned that certain outdoor winter sports have really thrived during the pandemic, including alpine skiing, snowboarding, and cross country, largely because these sports were permitted during lockdowns at the height of the pandemic.
Organizers will now try to determine whether the event can be rescheduled. The 2020 Saskatchewan Summer Games were also cancelled due to the pandemic.
In ordinary circumstances, the Saskatchewan Games are held every two years, alternating between summer and winter.