LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The figure skating Grand Prix Final next week has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic for the second season in a row.

The Dec. 9-12 event in Osaka, Japan, was the only global event matching the best skaters across all four disciplines before the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.

“Unfortunately, considering the complicated epidemic situation involving travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, safety concerns and logistical challenges, the organization of the event was extremely challenging,” the International Skating Union said on Thursday.

The Japanese government has barred entry for most foreigners without existing links to the country against a backdrop of concern over the spread of the new omicron variant.

“I am disappointed about the cancellation of the Grand Prix final in Japan. However, I know that everyone’s health is most important,” three-time world champion and Olympic favorite Nathan Chen wrote in a text message to The Associated Press.

The Grand Prix Final gives skaters a chance to make their case for an Olympic spot before national championships in late December and January. That was a particular issue for Russia, which had five of the six women's places at the Grand Prix Final but can send a maximum of only three to the Olympics.

“While we are disappointed for our 14 athletes who have worked so hard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, the health and safety of all involved is of utmost importance,” U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement. “We respect and understand the difficult decision made by the Japan Skating Federation and the ISU.”

The Grand Prix Final could be rescheduled to the end of the season, the ISU said. In that case, it may be hard to find dates around the world championships in March.

The Grand Prix Final was to be held in Beijing last year but was canceled and not rescheduled.


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