Mississauga, Hamilton and Burlington field hockey players want to get home from South Africa

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Published November 30, 2021 at 11:19 am

The Canadian junior women's field hockey team is continuing to practice while players and staff await a travel solution to get them home from South Africa. (Photo: Field Hockey Canada)

Mississauga, Hamilton and Burlington members of the Canadian junior women’s field hockey team remain stranded with their squad in South Africa as Field Hockey Canada and the federal government work to bring them home. 

Mississauga’s Danielle Husar, Hamilton’s Madison Workman, Burlington’s Mackenzie Williams and their teammates are staying at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa as they await a plan to get them on a flight and back to Canada amid growing global concerns over the newest strain of the COVID-19 virus. 

Jenna Berger and Grace Leahy, both of Waterloo, are the two other Ontario members of the 20-player squad that was in Potchefstroom preparing to compete at the Junior World Cup, which was scheduled to take place Dec. 5-17.  

But last week’s discovery in South Africa of the newest variant of the coronavirus, dubbed Omicron by the World Health Organization, has left the team scrambling to make arrangements to get home after the under-21 tournament was postponed.  

Making matters more difficult is that Canada (and a host of other countries) has imposed restrictions on travel from South Africa and six other nearby countries. 

“Due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant, most commercial flights in and out of the region have been suspended, leaving the athletes on the team and traveling staff without immediate transit home,” a statement from Field Hockey Canada (FHC) reads.  

The athletes are training on-field and spending time in their rooms as they wait for a resolution, the statement also noted. 

Field Hockey Canada CEO Susan Ahrens said the organization is in constant contact with the athletes, parents and staff as it tries to arrange travel back home. 

“The health, safety and well-being of our athletes and staff is the first priority. I’m happy to report that everyone is healthy and safe and trying to make the best out of a challenging situation,” said Ahrens, adding FHC is working with government officials and travel representatives to find the fastest and safest way back to Canada for the team. 

Canada was slated to begin tournament play against Uruguay, England and Belgium after earning a first-ever gold medal in August at the Junior Pan American Championships in Chile. 

Though FHC supports the decision to postpone the tournament, Ahrens said she feels for team members who’ve worked so hard to get to where they are.  

“We’re heartbroken for the athletes. They have trained so hard for the opportunity to represent Canada at the World Cup,” she said. “They are an amazing group that has represented our nation so well. We are really proud of how they are handling such a challenging situation.” 

Husar, a forward with the Canadian team, plays midfield for the University of Virginia Cavaliers squad when she’s not playing for her country. The Lorne Park Secondary School graduate is a veteran of international play, having won bronze in Dublin, Ireland in 2019 with Canada’s under-21 team at the 4 Nations Tournament. 

Workman is a defender on the Canadian team and also plays on her NCAA squad at Miami University in Ohio. The Hamilton native is a grad of Craig Kielburger Secondary School in Milton, where she was team MVP in 2015 and 2017. 

Williams, a graduate of Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School in Burlington, is also a defender on the Canadian squad. She attends Virginia Commonwealth University and started all 10 games for her university field hockey team this season. 

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