The highly dynamic spread of coronavirus infections not only has an impact on the economy and society, but also on sports worldwide.
Loss of income, discontinued training camps, cancellation of qualification competitions for the Olympics, changed or cancelled trainings – currently many top athletes are faced with major challenges due to the coronavirus.
We asked three different top athletes about the current situation and how the current crisis is affecting their lives.
Sam Schachter – Canadian beach volleyball professional, 18th place in the Olympic ranking of the world beach volleyball association (would currently be qualified)
How is the situation for you?
This is a totally new experience for us; something that no-one expected and no-one prepared for. I’ve been travelling recently, so I’m in self-isolation now for the next two weeks. Not that it makes much of a difference though, since our training facilities and the gym are closed anyway.
If the gyms are closed, how do you keep yourself fit?
In terms of training, we definitely need to get creative. I’m lucky that today’s technology allows me to keep in touch with my coach, who is fantastic in coming up with home workouts. After all, I can still work on cardio, speed, and explosiveness from home. I’m also blessed to have a girlfriend who is also playing, so that we can have training sessions in our backyard. We also have a basketball net – maybe I’ll start serving against the board.
Other than that, I can work on my mental strength with mediation sessions, video analyses, and visualization exercises. I can’t play, but I regularly imagine myself being in the sand and playing. It’s important to keep yourself sharp!
Would you postpone or cancel the Olympic Games?
The final decision on the Olympic Games should be up to the WHO. With all due respect for us as athletes, it’s much more important to save lives than to adhere to the Olympic schedule. It’s about people – this is much bigger than the Olympics!
I would never want to do anything that risks someone else’s, life. Even if you did Olympics without life audience, you’d still need to consider the athletes’ health.
I just hope that the decision will be made soon. Our training regimen is built up well in advance, and designed to reach peak form in August. If we need to make changes, we need enough time to adapt.
What would it mean for you if the Games got cancelled?
It would be devastating if the Olympics were completely cancelled. We’ve been working towards this goal for four years, and for some of us this will be the last chance to participate in the Games. Our entire life is revolving around this. It even affects family planning, with female athletes carefully timing in which year they can get pregnant, and male athletes needing to plan when they can be 100% there for their partner. The Olympic Games are the Stanley Cup of our sport, and they’re only there every four years!
Let’s be optimistic for a second and assume that the situation is over and the Games can take place. That doesn’t resolve the question how to finish the qualification process, with many qualification tournaments being cancelled. What solution would you prefer?
In the current Olympic ranking Sam and I would just meet the qualification threshold. If you’d ask me, I would just freeze the ranking as it is – but I’m obviously biased. I’m happy that I don’t have to make the decision because someone will definitely be disappointed, and I don’t see any solution that is fair to everyone.
How does the situation affect you financially?
Financially, these are difficult times for us as well. Unlike other nations, Canada is not a country that has a good sponsorship infrastructure for beach volleyball. We also don’t get any financial support from our federation. They support us with flight credits, which we cannot use at the moment. Our main source of income is prize money, but with all tournaments being cancelled, this won’t add anything in the next months. My secondary income source is coaching, which also doesn’t provide for anything while training courts are closed.
These are difficult times – for health, for sports, and financially. I hope the situation will get better soon. But most importantly, please stay safe and healthy everyone!
Max Hartung – President of the German Athletes Association and German Saber Fencer (would now qualify for the Olympics)
Would you participate in the Olympic Games at this time?
The qualification in fencing is not over yet. It looks like I would be qualified. But we are all at home for a week now and of course we follow the news and are worried about our fellow athletes, about older people and our own grandparents. The question whether we will participate in the Olympic Games is unfortunately moving more and more into the background.
What would it mean for you if the Olympic Games were to be postponed or cancelled?
Those are of course two different things.
A short-term postponement would be unpleasant, but I could perhaps adjust to that.
If the Games were cancelled, now after almost two years of qualifying, it would be very bad and very sad for me personally and for many other athletes. A lot of energy has gone into this.
My situation and the training and competition plan is that the world federation FEE has now suspended all international competitions for 30 days. That means for us one week of holidays. The training possibilities are also limited. So, I will wait for the week, stay at home as much as possible and then see if I can find a place to train. Of course, I’m still trying to prepare myself as if the Olympic Games would take place in summer. And of course, you must make new plans from day to day, from week to week.
Update: In the meantime, Max has decided that he will not participate in Olympic Games this summer, even if the Games weren’t postponed.
Max Hoff, German canoeist – Olympic Champion in Rio de Janeiro
What influence does the coronavirus have on your training and competition schedule?
All the boathouses are closed right now. So, it is no longer possible to train properly. Many of my colleagues are also already in domestic quarantine. I’m sure there are still a few in the Olympic squad who have a special permit to enter training facilities. In Essen everything is closed, which means that you somehow train at home in your own living room. Or you put the boat on the roof of the car and jump into the water somewhere. So, this is very provisional and has nothing to do with the fact that you would like to become Olympic champion. But that’s not important for now anyway. To the competition schedule: The first qualification was cancelled. I think the second qualification is one week after Easter, which will certainly not take place. These are the national qualifications, previous to the World Cups in May. These are also cancelled and will not take place.
Do you think a cancellation or a postponement of the Olympic Games is better?
To be honest, I don’t want to make friends with either option. This is of course difficult. So, before they are completely cancelled, it would be better to postpone them. With or without spectators. But I’m not so sure what I would prefer – without spectators this summer or next year with spectators. I think we have to see how the situation develops. It would be a pity if it were to be generally cancelled or cancelled without substitution. But even the postponement is not so easy for us athletes.
What does it mean for you personally if the games are postponed?
Of course it is difficult at first. On one hand, all the training plans lead to the Olympic Games and you have prepared for it for a long time and you can’t just postpone the planning. On the other hand it is the same situation for all athletes, we all have to accept it and find a way. That’s why it’s mind of okay again. It is a challenge that you have to get a grip on. There have been better times, for all of us. Even for people who don’t play sports. So we’re hoping we can fix that.