BEIJING (Reuters) – It has been the best of times, and the worst of times, for Finland’s Marko Anttila at the Beijing Olympics.
He had tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival and about two weeks ago the Finnish men’s ice hockey coach Jukka Jalonen had accused China of ignoring Anttila’s human rights by sending him to an isolation hotel where he was not getting good food.
The team doctor had explained at the time that Anttila had tested positive 18 days ago but produced several negative results prior to departing for Beijing.
Twelve days later, Anttila’s COVID testing misery has given way to hopes for an Olympic gold, after Finland battled past Slovakia 2-0 Friday to reach the tournament final.
“Of course it wasn’t an easy time there and a lot of times I think all kind of thoughts and this was actually one of them, to play in an Olympic final and now it’s possible for us,” said Anttila.
The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) player missed Finland’s opener against Slovakia Feb. 10, which his team won 6-2, but returned in time for their Feb. 11 preliminary against Latvia, for which he contributed a goal in their 3-1 win.
“Everybody’s been a little bit scared of those tests … but I’m proud of our guys how they can handle all the pressure and maybe not the prettiest game today but we won it,” Anttila said.
Friday’s win has propelled Finland to its first Olympic final in men’s ice hockey since 2006, a possibility the Pyeongchang Olympian said he prepared for even while he was stuck in isolation.
“Of course it wasn’t that bad – I was just lonely in the hotel room but the target was (to) play here and enjoy and the dream come true and now it’s possible so it’s fun,” he said.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Beijing; Editing by Himani Sarkar)