Coronavirus: High-profile Quebec athletes ask province to reopen sports

Two high-profile athletes from Quebec have written letters to Quebec’s premier François Legault asking him to resume sports activities in the province amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

Jonathan Marchessault of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights wrote a letter to Legault.

“I understand that we wanted to protect the elderly during the management of the pandemic. What I don’t understand is how we completely disregarded the rights of young people,” Marchessault wrote. “Many people publicly expressed their dismay, how many others are suffering in silence? It’s time to listen to them.”

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Olympic gold medalist Mikaël Kingsbury also came out with his own plea. In his letter to the premier, Kingsbury said he was worried for young athletes.

“I stopped this week and asked myself what would I do if I were one of these young people, deprived of sports for a year, during a pandemic. It made me dizzy!” he said.

“I wouldn’t have been able to survive a full year deprived of my passion. Simply said, I’d be lost.”

Elite tennis player Jonah Bergeron agrees with Kingsbury.

“I appreciated it a lot,” said Bergeron of Kingsbury’s initiative.

Bergeron has missed his last year at the junior level and with it, his hope to get a college scholarship.

“It’s tough,” Bergeron said. “I miss training, I miss doing physical things, but mostly [I miss] going to play tennis. I don’t play at all now so I’m missing out at my passion.”

On Wednesday, Legault announced five regions in Quebec would pass from red to orange in the province’s colour-coded alert system, allowing for sports practices to resume there, but leaving red zones such as Montreal out in the cold.

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Tennis Quebec wrote in a statement it had mixed feelings about the decision — happy for the resumption of sports in orange zones but perplexed about why it didn’t extend to red zones too.

“Tennis Québec remains very disappointed and cannot hide its incomprehension in the face of the authorities’ refusal to allow recreational singles and private lessons in red zones, which represents the vast majority of facilities in Quebec,” the statement read, calling the approach “arbitrary.”

“The choice of permitted activities, such as skating and swimming, and prohibited ones hardly seems based on the level of risk represented by the activities in question or even on an understandable and therefore defendable logic.” 

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Tennis Quebec’s executive director Jean-Francois Manibal added that the delay is causing damage to the sport.

“For the kids, many of them are probably going to be abandoning the sport,” Manibal said.

“As for the industry, we’ve already lost one of the indoor facilities that we had here in Quebec unfortunately.”

Quebec’s minister responsible for sports is expected to to make an announcement next week.

Meanwhile, a protest is planned for Sunday outside Quebec’s National Assembly, demanding that athletic practices resume immediately.

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