Armed with his fourth negative COVID-19 test result, Keegan Messing was on a plane headed to Europe on Saturday afternoon, a trip that puts the Alaska figure skater one step closer to Beijing and the Winter Olympics.
Stuck in Vancouver for more than a week because of COVID-19 protocols, Messing is expected to reach Beijing in time to compete Monday afternoon (Alaska time) in the men’s singles short program.
He flew to Montreal on Friday after getting his third negative test result in Vancouver and tested negative again in Montreal to clear protocols, according to Canadian officials.
“He had a 4th negative test in Montreal and is on his way now to Beijing. He’s flying through Europe and arrives here early on the 7th,” Skate Canada spokeswoman Caroline Sharp said Saturday afternoon by email.
Based on the itinerary described by Sharp, Messing will be in Beijing for about 24 hours before the men’s short program, which begins at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday in Beijing (4:15 p.m. Monday in Alaska). That gives him perhaps enough time to test the ice at the city’s Capital Indoor Stadium prior to making his second Olympic appearance.
If anyone is prepared to handle a quick turnaround and the stress of nearly missing the Olympics, it’s Messing. At last month’s Canadian national championships, he endured weather delays and flight cancellations that contributed to a 33-hour trip from Anchorage to Ottawa, and along the way he was separated from his competition skates. The skates didn’t arrive until the night before the short program.
“Your body knows what to do; you come to a competition, adversity hits, and you just roll with the punches,” Messing told The Canadian Press after winning in Ottawa. “You keep your head high, you hope for the best, and you keep a positive mindset.”
Messing is a 30-year-old with dual citizenship who lives and trains in Anchorage and competes for Canada. He finished 12th at the 2018 Winter Olympics, was sixth at last year’s World Championships and is Team Canada’s top male skater.
After winning his first national title last month, Messing returned briefly to Anchorage. When he rejoined his Olympic teammates in Canada, he tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to travel to China with the rest of the team.
He missed Thursday’s team competition and Friday’s Opening Ceremonies while in Vancouver, his Olympics on hold pending the series of negative test results. Various news reports out of Canada said team officials rented ice time so Messing could skate by himself and found a security guard who could stand watch as Messing worked out in a hotel stairwell.
[Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the day of the Olympic men’s figure skating short program competition and the day Messing was expected to arrive in China.]