• AFP-JIJI, STAFF REPORT, KYODO

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The World Figure Skating Championships scheduled for Montreal next week has been canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Quebec provincial official announced on Wednesday.

Health Minister Danielle McCann told a news conference the event, which was scheduled to begin on Monday and run through March 22, has been called off because of “the risk of transmission of the virus,” making it the latest major international sports event affected by the pandemic which has spread around the world.

About 200 skaters from 50 countries were expected to take part.

Yuzuru Hanyu, Keiji Tanaka, Shoma Uno, Wakaba Higuchi, Rika Kihira and Satoko Miyahara had been scheduled to represent Japan in the men’s and women’s singles competitions.

“The cancellation is unfortunate, but I’m relieved that the risk of infection to the athletes, to all the spectators and the business and operations staff, is reduced even if only by a little,” said Hanyu, a two-time Olympic champion and a silver medalist at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama.

McCann said some attendees would have come from countries experiencing local transmission, with little access to laboratory testing and treatment.

As such, the event “might have contributed to the geographic spread of the virus,” she said.

In a statement, Skate Canada and the International Skating Union said they “fully respect the difficult decision made today” by Quebec officials.

They said they regret that “the most important figure skating event of the season” must be canceled, but “understands that the safety and well-being of all participants and the community take precedence.”

The two organizations added they would be reaching out to stakeholders, and evaluate in the coming weeks whether the championships “could possibly be held later in the year, but in any case not before October 2020.”

The French couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, quadruple world champions in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019, were aiming for a fifth world crown in the Canadian city where they train and have lived since mid-2014.

They were beaten for the first time in almost two years at the European Championships in January in Graz, Austria.

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