For Winter Olympians, the last hurdle before the competition is staying healthy.

They’ve come too far, for far too long, to mess it all up now.

And so the eight members of the Canadian men’s curling team are spending the three weeks before the Winter Olympics sequestered in a rental home in Vancouver. They train only when the rink nearby is empty and otherwise pass the time shooting pool, sitting in a hot tub and thinking about their families back home.

“It’s like a frat house without the booze,” said 2010 gold medalist Marc Kennedy, an alternate on this year’s team, who is dealing with the disappointment of missing one of his daughters’ dance recitals. “Everybody here has pretty wonderful spouses.”

As thousands of Olympians worldwide collectively hurtle through the final weeks of preparation for the 2022 Games in Beijing, they are integrating a new exercise into their daily regimens:

Sidestepping Covid-19, by whatever means necessary.

With the Feb. 4 opening ceremony in their sights, athletes are cutting off contact with loved ones, changing the very ways they train and, in many cases, ceasing all activities outside the realms of competition. The task has felt increasingly herculean amid a global surge in coronavirus cases inflamed by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The emotional toll of all this, of living in fear of getting sick, of thoroughly disrupting their lives to avoid it, has been as taxing as their hardest workouts. But the alternative — contracting the coronavirus, being forced to sit out the Games and, in effect, erasing years of preparation and anticipation for this singular moment in their careers — is simply too devastating to ponder.

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