BEIJING - An athlete's journey to the Olympics is seldom devoid of obstacles but for Canadian figure skater Keegan Messing simply traveling to China during the pandemic was a feat in itself.
Messing finished ninth in the men's short program at the 2022 Winter Olympics on Tuesday, just a day after arriving in China. The 30-year-old had been awaiting negative COVID-19 test results in Canada to allow him to travel.
"I'm stoked on life right now to be able to go out and do what I did," the Canadian national champion, who placed 12th at PyeongChang in 2018, told reporters at the Capital Indoor Stadium.
Messing was stunned to test positive after having been negative days before, forcing him into quarantine before flying out to the Olympics.
"Keeping the mental health side of things strong was very, very difficult," he said. "To pop a positive like that when I had negatives the days before. It was out of the blue."
Messing flew from Vancouver to Montreal, before making connections in Frankfurt and Milan on his way to Beijing.
"The journey here was crazy," he said. "I'm used to long trips, but this kind of takes the cake."
The pandemic also derailed the Olympic experience of Latvia's Deniss Vasiljevs, whose coach Stephane Lambiel missed his skater's final preparations for the Games after testing positive.
Lambiel, who was later cleared to travel, stood by the rink on Tuesday when Vasiljevs qualified for the free skate after a 16th-place finish in the short program.
"Without him, it was probably one of the roughest training days I've had in this season," Vasiljevs said of Lambiel's absence earlier in the Games.
Although the build-up to Beijing might have been chaotic for Messing and disheartening for Vasiljevs, the skaters have emerged with renewed strength.
Vasiljevs has since been reunited with Lambiel, attributing two "fantastic" practice days to his coach. Messing said he just had to trust that years of training would help him pull through.
"I've learned in this COVID time no matter how many hurdles are put in front of you, your body remembers how to compete," Messing said.