I was in the Costa coffee queue, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram when a caption jumped out at me. ‘It has been concluded that overseas spectators will not be allowed entry into Japan for #Tokyo2020’. My heart dropped and my eyes were suddenly swimming. After all the support they have given and sacrifices they have made over the years, those closest to me will not be able to come to the Olympics. On one of the biggest days of my life, I will be half a world away from my friends and family.
Of course I had some idea this news might come. Over the past few months I have become accustomed letting the multiple news articles speculating wildly in every direction about the upcoming games just pass me by, trusting the official sources to keep us updated. It my job just to focus purely on what I can do each day; stay covid free and make the boat a little bit faster. But every so often a piece of news stirs my emotions, and I have been around long enough to know that I need to allow myself to feel and to process how this affects me. I see it as a vital part of my preparation for racing; deal with it now so my head is clear for the most important moments on the start line.
The news that our friends and family will have their Olympic experience through screens at home arrived exactly a year after we stopped training at the start of lockdown one. It has already been a year with many family moments missed, but the truth is those close to me have already put up with many years of my absence at weddings, birthdays and special occasions. I had hoped their Olympic experience would make up for this, but once again we will need to adapt and find new ways to make memories together.
On one of the biggest days of my life, I will be half a world away from my friends and family.
To be clear – I am unbelievably grateful that the Olympics is still going ahead. I completely understand why the organisers have to be so careful and cautious around their decision making. I am fully aware of the huge privilege that we as elite athletes have had to be able to continue to train through the most recent lockdowns. And I still strongly believe in the power of sport on an individual level for physical and psychological wellbeing, and on a global level for unity and inspiring people to push their limits and chase their dreams. Tokyo 2020 will be a unique games in many ways, but the heartbeat of the Olympics remains the same. ‘Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles*’. I can enjoy the training journey, give my full effort to each race, continue to invest in other athletes and respect my fellow competitors no matter where my friends and family are watching from.
*This is the Olympic moto.