Summit adaptive snowboarders have whirlwind experience trying to return from Europe amid travel restrictions
U.S. Ski & Snowboard, United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association, Colorado High School Activities Association also announce cancellations
FRISCO — Adaptive Action Sports co-founder Daniel Gale on Thursday drove a group of seven Summit County locals down the 783-kilometer seaside route from Lillehammer, Norway, to Copenhagen, Denmark. During the drive, Gale put into perspective what it’s like for Americans abroad who are trying to get back to the States after President Donald Trump suspended all travel from Europe for the next 30 days beginning Friday.
The past 24 hours has been a whirlwind for the group, which was in Hafjell, Norway, for this week’s final World Para Snowboard World Cup event of the season. The remainder of the World Cup season was canceled Wednesday as concerns regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus — officially known as coronavirus disease 19, or COVID-19 — escalated following the World Health Organization’s formal pandemic declaration.
The cancellation came after a risk assessment of the World Para Snowboard World Cup and World Para Alpine World Cup in Hafjell by the local health authorities. The World Cup competitions originally were scheduled in Hafjell through Sunday.
At first, the cancellation only meant no events would take place beyond Wednesday’s dual banked slalom.
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“As the news hit, everybody was kind of scrambling to figure out what was next,” Gale said.
Then at about 2 a.m. Lillehammer time, one of Adaptive Action Sports’ snowboarders, Kiana Clay of Dillon, brought to Gale’s attention that Trump had announced a suspension of all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days, set to go into effect at midnight Friday.
“So at 3 in the morning, we had a quick, impromptu team meeting, as I’m sure many of the other teams did and certainly the rest of the (United States) team,” Gale said. “And we booked travel to fly out (Friday) at 6 a.m. … and we’ll be back in (Denver via Frankfurt Friday) around 2:30 or 3 p.m.”
“We should make it home no problem,” Gale continued. “I guess there is a little nervous energy as far as how things will look once we get there: What’s customs going to look like, what kind of questions are we going to get asked, are they going to test us, are we at risk of quarantine — all of those things kind of are looming.”
• U.S. Ski & Snowboard cancels all remaining domestic events
• United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association cancels Nationals at Copper Mountain Resort
• Colorado High School Activities Association cancels spring sports and activities until April 6
Gale said that even before Wednesday’s cancellation, the coronavirus situation loomed over the World Cup event. Before the competition, Gale said the Norwegian government banned a few of the countries — Italy, Japan and Austria — from having their athletes participate. But after negotiations, Gale said, the Japanese athletes were permitted to compete, though Italian and Austrian athletes were forced to leave within 24 hours of arrival.
“That kind of set the tone for the rest of the visit,” Gale said. “Everyone was a little bit on edge, and we as coaches and the athletes just tried to focus on the competition at hand.”
As for Wednesday’s competition, Clay advanced to the upper-limb-impaired dual banked slalom small final, finishing in fourth place as the top Adaptive Action Sports female competitor behind fellow American Peggy Martin in second. On the men’s side, Americans Noah Elliott and Mike Schultz finished first and second in the Lower Limb 1 division while Summit County athletes Zach Miller and Garrett Geros finished fifth and sixth in Lower Limb 2.
Gale said the cancellation throws the 2020 Para Snowboard World Cup season into uncertainty, as the canceled boardercross races scheduled for the weekend were critical to many of the athletes and would have determined the winner of the seasonlong Crystal Globe title.
“So it’s unclear now for that actual sport, para boardercross, who will receive the globes or if they will even get awarded this year,” Gale said.
“It was really unfortunate that this was kind of the way the season ended,” Gale added. “I think everyone who is involved in Adaptive Action Sports, we all have a passion for snowboarding, and we love it, and we hate to see something like this get in the way of allowing us to do what we love to do. We have to be leaving, but obviously we understand. … Something like this has an odd way of bringing everybody together, and all of the athletes and the coaches were extremely supportive of one another and making sure everybody was safe.”
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