Longing for Langford: Canada’s annual rugby pilgrimage delayed by pandemic

It is more than rugby. It became the unofficial gate of spring. For the growing community on Vancouver Island, Canadian Women’s Sevens is a celebration of athletic excellence that attracts a worldwide audience of millions.

In Langford, DC, about 14 kilometers west of Victoria, May Weekends have become synonymous with world-class rugby, played in an intimate setting. Thousands of fans make a pilgrimage every year to cheer on their sports badges.

Not this year

The global pandemic stopped almost all sporting events, and the Canadian Seven was no exception. It was officially postponed at the end of March as the size and scale of COVID-19 spread across continents and oceans.

“We had the best season ever, and that makes it all a little harder,” says Canadian captain Gislein Landry, who led his team to four consecutive finishes on the podium before closing.

The replacement date is not indicated, but the organizers hope that it can be rescheduled. Rugby Canada CEO Allen Wansen describes the loss of Langford as a “heartbreaking decision” in terms of both operations and finances.

“The amount of preparation for this event is significant, since most of the operational planning was completed before the postponement, so many of our employees will certainly feel a loss of effort,” he says.

Canadian Karen Paquin (back) celebrates attempt by teammate Charity Williams in a quarterfinal match against the U.S. in Langford, British Columbia, in May 2019. The 2020 release will not take place during a traditional May weekend due to a global pandemic. (File / Canadian Press)

Then there is the revenue that Langford generates for both Rugby Canada and the local economy.

“From a financial point of view, we planned the event to make a small profit.” Vansen continues. “Our great partners in Sport Canada and World Rugby partly funded their expenses to cover the costs already allocated for this event.”

Massive Impact Effect

As for the Canadian national team, now it’s not a very big team. Daily training at the base in Langford is not possible, and head coach John Tate saw that his role has changed significantly without a team for the coach.

“I planned a lot in case of unforeseen circumstances with both staff and individual athletes, now that the Olympics and most of our remaining World Series events have been canceled or rescheduled,” he says. “There is a huge effect for everyone – it sometimes becomes surreal.”

Canada team coach John Tate (center), as shown, advises his team in October 2019 in Glendale, Colorado. Tate is busy making contingency plans now that the Olympics and most of the remaining World Series events this season have been canceled or rescheduled. (Travis Prior / World Rugby)

Players were forced to accept someone else’s routine. There is no planned regime and no team environment for athletes who usually spend so much time together. Landry explains the realities of his new norm: “The first couple of weeks were really hard. We not only dealt with the realities and emotions of the Olympic deferment, but, like many people, our daily affairs have completely changed, “she said.

“We used to plan our days to the minute and be together every day. Personally, I am better now and find all the silver lining that I can. ”

WATCH | Gislen Landry for the Olympic reprieve:

Leading scorer and captain of the women’s rugby national team, Gislein Landry, shares his thoughts on what the Olympic delay for mature athletes means. 1:55

Tate describes Langford’s postponement as “disappointing,” but says his team expects a larger prize in his grand scheme.

“We saw how the events and dates of the series change, but this Olympic date is what our world and life revolve over a year, so the change of events and the threat especially bother us.”

“At the moment, all we can do is, like everyone else, take care of each other, isolate and do our best to prepare ourselves to show our best when this opportunity to compete reappears”

Landry, the leader in the number of points scored in the World Sevens women’s series, believes that there are pros and cons throughout the year of the Olympic break.

“I think that our team gathered at the peak in time for July, and it would be an exciting Olympic tournament. But given another 15 months to adjust the details, this is also positive. ”

Canadian captain Gislane Landry is preparing for an attempt to enter the 2019 women’s series at Westhills Stadium in Langford, British Columbia. in May 2019. Landry says her team is “very sad not to play, but when the time is right and safe, we will celebrate together.” (Chris Wilson for Rugby Canada)

Vansen hopes that the new date can be confirmed for Langford, but recognizes the potential time to find a solution.

“We are continuing an open dialogue with World Rugby regarding rescheduling options. The extended effect of the situation with COVID-19 really makes it difficult to find the time to play all the events before the scheduled start of the World Series 2020-21 season. ”

“We will celebrate together”

Returning to Langford, the Westhills Stadium is empty and quiet – fans are forced to stay home and refuse the much-loved annual event. Landry lacks their support.

“Our team loves to play at home, and our fans play a big role in this. We are very sad not to play, but when the time is right and we will be safe, we will celebrate together. I also know that many of our fans are frontline workers, and we would like to thank each of them for their work in our communities to ensure our safety. ”

To this end, two Canadian Landry teammates, Pam Buise and Caroline Crossley, have set up a foundation called Vancouver Islands, a community initiative raising money for locals in financial difficulty.

It is impossible to say whether the seven women of Canada 2020 can be saved. We crave Langford and Landry, but we may have to wait another year. This is a new norm for everyone, but when the gates open again and the crowds return, it will be worth the wait.

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