Germany used a three-player team in its opening game at the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship on Friday morning after being given late clearance to compete.
The shorthanded lineup of skip Daniela Jentsch, vice Mia Hoehne and lead Analena Jentsch dropped an 8-4 decision to Russia’s Alina Kovaleva in the round-robin opener inside the curling bubble at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre.
The German team’s playing status was uncertain until late Thursday after two of the five team members tested positive for COVID-19 in pre-competition screening upon arrival in Calgary. Normally a team must use four players but the WCF granted the rink an exemption at the 11th hour.
The federation felt the situation qualified as an “extenuating circumstance” under competition rules, which allowed the Germans to compete with a three-player lineup.
“Obviously we’re relieved that we can actually play,” Daniela Jentsch said. “The last week has been a new experience to be honest, it’s something we didn’t prepare for. But I think we managed very well with the help of (others), so it’s fine.”
The 14-team competition, which runs through May 9, is the main qualifier for the 2022 Beijing Games. The top six teams will qualify for the playoffs and secure Olympic berths for their respective countries.
The two athletes who tested positive have remained in isolation. German second Klara-Hermine Fomm and alternate Emira Abbes were not available to play Friday.
“They’re of course cheering for us but it’s tough not to be with us right now,” Jentsch said. “I think they hoped to be with us on the ice but they’re supporting us from the hotel room. But yeah, they’re okay, they’re fine.”
The 14-team event was given the green light to go ahead by public health officials on Wednesday. All other players and team members have regularly tested negative over the last week.
Canada’s Kerri Einarson was scheduled to play her opener Friday afternoon against Olympic champion Anna Hasselborg of Sweden. Einarson, from Camp Morton, Man., was to face Anna Kubeskova of the Czech Republic in the evening.
The German athletes who are able to play must undergo rapid testing and have a PCR test done every morning, the WCF said. Their teammates who remain in isolation will continue to be “medically managed” by competition medical officials, the federation said in a statement.
The positive cases forced organizers to cancel Wednesday’s opening practice session at the Canada Olympic Park venue. Thursday’s practice went ahead but the Germans had to wait until the late evening before getting on the ice for the first time.
“It’s been tough,” said Jentsch, who’s making her seventh career appearance at this event. “All of the sudden you see so many humans that you haven’t seen in a week.
“It’s just overwhelming, it’s a lot right now. But we’re happy obviously.”
In other early games, defending champion Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland dumped South Korea’s EunJung Kim 10-2 and the Czechs beat Italy’s Stefania Constantini 7-5. Scotland’s Eve Muirhead posted a 10-6 victory over Tabitha Peterson of the United States.
Four-person teams bring an extra player, called a fifth or an alternate, to major championships to draw into the lineup in the event of illness or injury. Three-player teams can be at a disadvantage when it comes to sweeping.
“Right now we’re taking it as just moving ahead and moving forward,” German coach Uli Kapp said. “That’s a good thing.”
Jentsch shot 64 per cent over the eight-end game, the lowest of the seven players on the ice. Kovaleva finished at 88 per cent.
The women’s world championship is the seventh and final competition to be played in the curling bubble. Three domestic competitions preceded the world men’s championship and two Grand Slam events.
There was a COVID-19 scare during the world men’s playdowns but four positive test results were later deemed to be false positives. The penultimate day of competition was postponed and players wore face masks when they returned on the final day.
The women’s players did not wear masks Friday morning on the field of play.
Teams are confined to the arena and tournament hotel across the Trans-Canada Highway. They drive themselves back and forth.
The 2020 world championship was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Chelsea Carey skipped the Canadian entry in 2019 at Silkeborg, Denmark, but did not make the playoffs. Jennifer Jones was the last Canadian skip to win this event, taking gold in 2018 at North Bay, Ont.