Norway pull out of World Cup events over COVID-19 fears

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Norway has pulled its national team out of December’s World Cup cross-country skiing competitions in Germany and Switzerland due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they may not take part in January’s Tour de Ski, the Norwegian Ski Association has said.

One of the sport’s powerhouse nations, the Norwegians met following last weekend’s competition in Ruka, Finland and decided that the risk of their athletes contracting the virus was too high.

“In addition to the risk of travelling, we have experienced that keeping distance and avoiding close contact in the World Cup arena is more demanding than we first assumed,” Espen Bjervig, manager for the cross-country skiing team, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Endurance athletes have their lungs as a tool, and we do not know the after-effects of COVID-19. Therefore, we must take precautions.

“Like the rest of society, we now experience insecurity as we adapt to an uncertain everyday life. Of course we understand that there may be different considerations around this, but this decision is right for us in the Norwegian Ski Association cross-country skiing,” he added.

Neighbours and rivals Sweden may have seen this as a great chance to make up some ground during the World Cup events in Dresden (Germany) and Davos (Switzerland), but it appears they are considering a similar course of action.

However, Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla said she is ready to go.

“I feel secure that the team that is going to make those decisions are going to make a thorough judgement if they recommend that it’s safe to compete,” three-time Olympic champion Kalla told broadcaster Sveriges Radio.

Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Christian Radnedge