UVic teams affected as U Sports cancels winter sports season

University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball coach Craig Beaucamp used Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, NBA finalist this season with Miami, as an example to his players of how to use this down season to their advantage.

The U Sports seasons for all winter sports, including hoops, were officially cancelled Thursday when the national governing body for Canadian university sports said it could not host national championships due to the pandemic. The U Sports fall season, including football and soccer, had been scrubbed earlier.

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“I told my players Kelly red-shirted and sat out one season when he transferred to Gonzaga [of the NCAA] and he used that year to transform his body and his game and to spring forward in his career,” said Beaucamp.

“It’s not what opportunities are lost but what opportunities are gained.”

The events cancelled include the U Sports men’s and women’s national championships in basketball, hockey, swimming, track and field, volleyball, wrestling and curling.

“Following consultations with the four conferences, we agreed that student-athlete safety remains our top priority,” said Dick White, U Sports interim CEO, in a statement.

“It is not logistically possible for teams to be travelling across the country at this time. Therefore, U Sports is in the unfortunate position where we are unable to offer the 2021 winter championships.”

U Sports varsity athletes will not lose a season of eligibility.

“My players are frustrated not to get the release travelling and playing, and even being in class, provides,” said UVic Vikes women’s basketball team coach Shalie Dheensaw.

“But we have set a goal of getting a little bit better every day through practice while keeping our players, program and community in a healthy place.” The UVic coaches say the U Sports decision wasn’t unexpected.

“As the number of cases rise during the second wave of COVID-19, and without an available vaccine, on-going sports restrictions are required to ensure student-athlete health and safety,” said Dr. Taryn Taylor, U Sports chief medical officer and representative on the Own the Podium return to sports task force.

Restrictions on travel and the ban on large indoor gatherings did not make hosting U Sports national championships possible this season.

“It became abundantly evident that the travel, fans and sponsorships needed to deliver these national championships would be not be feasible this season,” said UVic athletic director Clint Hamilton.

“It is disappointing for everybody. But our student-athletes are resilient and we will do our best to support them.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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