U Sports cancels 2021 winter national championships

The U Sports season has been hit hard by COVID-19 across multiple sports. (Justin Tang/CP)

No national championships in Canadian university sport will happen this season.

U Sports has cancelled its 2021 national tournaments because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impacted sports are men's and women's basketball, hockey, swimming, track and field, volleyball and wrestling.

The governing body of Canadian university sport previously called off this fall's Vanier Cup and two bowl games, as well as championships in men's and women's soccer, cross-country running and women's field hockey and rugby.

Curling Canada also previously announced the suspension of the 2021 national tournament.

The Atlantic, Ontario, Canada West and Quebec conferences supported scuttling the remainder of the nine tournaments across the country, according to U Sports interim chief executive officer Dick White.

"It was very clear in the conversations with the conferences, that although they may entertain some form of competition during the winter semester, the logistics of attending a national championship were just not feasible at all for the programs across the country," White told The Canadian Press on Thursday.

Roughly 20,000 student-athletes participate in varsity sport at 56 schools across Canada.

Teams flying to other provinces with varying pandemic restrictions and returning is problematic, as is the financial burden of hosting a national championship without fans and reduced sponsorship, White said.

"We heard back from our hosts who said to us 'I don't think we can do this,"' he said. "The second wave just kind of sealed the deal here.

"It's quite a sad time really."

No available vaccine and the number of infections rising in some parts of the country were factors in the decision.

"It is important to consider the impact on the under-30 university demographic," U Sports chief medical officer Taryn Taylor said in a statement.

"As the number of cases rise during the second wave of COVID-19, and without an available vaccine, ongoing sports restrictions are required to ensure student-athlete health and safety."

Atlantic Canada requires anyone entering from outside the region to quarantine for 14 days.

Halifax, Saint John, N.B., and Charlottetown were scheduled to host the men's basketball, track and field and men's hockey championships respectively in March.

White reiterated that athletes will not lose a year of scholarship eligibility, known as Athletic Financial Awards, to the pandemic.

The four conferences previously cancelled all varsity competition until the end of 2020 with a decision to be made on a possible resumption in January.

Many athletes are currently on their respective campuses training in their school's sports facilities while taking classes online.

Several schools are still holding football practices and virtual team meetings without any regular-season or exhibition games.

"I'm hopeful that in spite of the national championships, that within the provincial health guidelines wherever our universities reside, that there is still some opportunity for perhaps a little bit of competition, and some reason for athletes to get together and to continue to train," White said.

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