(Olympics) South Korean figure skaters keep their masks on in training, without taking risks

BEIJING, 05 Feb. (Yonhap) — Two years into the global coronavirus pandemic, we should all be used to wearing masks by now. Still, it can be difficult to keep the face covering on all the time.

But skating at full speed, not to mention jumping, twirling and dancing on the ice with the mask on for nearly 40 minutes? It’s a whole other challenge.

And yet, two South Korean Olympic figure skaters, Cha Jun-hwan and Lee Si-hyeong, took no risks on Friday during their first training session for Beijing 2022.

Cha and Lee were grouped with two other skaters during their initial training session on an ice rink next to the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, the competition venue for all figure skating events. And only the two South Koreans kept their masks on all the time, while the other two never wore their masks. Wearing a mask during training or competition is not compulsory.

Lee, who practiced a few jumps, said it was “pretty difficult” to breathe while wearing the mask. Lee said he was told that one of two non-Korean skaters in the same training group had already been diagnosed with COVID-19 before recovering in time for the Olympics.

“They didn’t tell us who that skater was because of privacy issues,” Lee added. “We also heard of athletes contracting COVID-19 after arriving in Beijing, so we wanted to be careful today.”

Cha didn’t do any jumps on Friday and focused mostly on his steps and choreography, but he struggled to breathe at times.

“It was tough, but it’s important to do these things to stay healthy,” Cha said. “I make sure to keep my hands clean all the time and do whatever it takes for health and safety.”

More than 300 Olympics-related staff have tested positive for COVID-19, event organizers say, despite being placed inside a bubble, otherwise known as the ‘loop system’ closed”.

Athletes who test positive face lengthy quarantines and must return consecutive negative results 24 hours apart.

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