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How An Athlete Prepares For Pandemic

The decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics due to the Pandemic hasn’t been easy on Olympic athletes.

Katarina Stefanidi performing a pole vault
Greece's Pole Vaulter, Katarina Stefanidi training | AFP

With the world at a standstill, sporting fans have been hit hard with the cancellation of many sports events leading to a lack of sports entertainment. 2020 being a leap year means the same fate was seen by the 32nd Olympics which were to be held in Tokyo, Japan. If things hadn’t gone so horribly wrong, the world would have already witnessed the end of the sporting event considered to be a display of the pinnacle of human ability. But the most affected by the decision to postpone the Olympics aren’t the fans but the athletes.

With the decision by the Olympics committee to postpone the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 11,000 athletes from all around the world had their dreams turn to dust. These athletes that train for a single shot at the world stage start training for their events years in advance with some picking up the sport from their childhood just so they can have a shot at the Olympics. They put themselves through intense physical training going over their routines again and again, tweaking every minute movement of their body to ensure a fighting chance at victory. Strict diets are a staple for Olympic athletes to maintain optimum physical condition. The physical strain an athlete goes through during the penultimate months to d-day is not for everyone. Taking to Twitter about the situation, American distance runner Karissa Schweizer said,

"As for now, the work continues and even though there’s many obstacles, I’m still going to work just as hard to shoot for more moments like this in the future."

But, physical fitness isn’t all that makes an Olympic athlete. Elite athletes constantly face the demons of fear, anxiety, worry about injury and failure. For today’s athletes, mental fitness is just as important as being physically tuned. Being an international event with the world’s eyes out for the best, it is very natural for the athletes to feel under pressure. This is the reason why almost all Olympic sports have sports psychologists working closely with team coaches and athletes to ensure their best performance during the event. The media recognition also plays a vital role in the confidence of an Olympian. These athletes that otherwise toil in obscurity, gain worldwide recognition in the span of no time before the games. Speaking to the LA Times, US swimmer Ryan Lochte said,

"This Olympics was going to be the most important Olympics of my career because of everything that's happened in my past."

Considering these factors, one cannot fathom the emotional struggle these athletes would be going through. Postponing the event may have come as a boon for some but to fine tune themselves a second time to reach their previously attained form will be extremely difficult for athletes. In some cases, the news shatters their dreams of ever competing on the world stage due to deteriorating competitiveness with age. For such athletes, this year would have been their last shot at the highly coveted Olympic medals. A physical battle is what these athletes overcome to reach the peak of performance, but a battle with time doesn’t always end well. So what’s in store for their future?

Well, their most likely course of action now would be to press the reset button on their current training and build a new 1 year plan until the Olympics are held next year. The one year delay may favour many young athletes to train harder than before. However, the road to get to the Olympics will most likely prove to be very different from their previous training strategy. To have complete commitment towards the single goal of being a world champion and putting in the dedication will be key for the competing athletes.


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