- Tomas Moya/Sailing Energy/World Sailing; Samantha Achterberg
- Insider spoke to US Sailing Team’s Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea, as well as pentathlete Samantha Schultz Achterberg about the Tokyo Olympic Games being postponed to July 2021.
- All three said there was a sense of “relief” that they wouldn’t be competing in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- For now, all three athletes have adjusted their training so they can work out at home while in self-isolation.
- Schultz has stopped swimming and even created a laser shooting range in her driveway, and Roble and Shea are studying the weather.
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The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed to July 2021 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, and some Team USA athletes told Insider that there’s a sense of “relief” that they won’t have to compete in the midst of a global pandemic.
Insider spoke to US Sailing Team’s Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea, as well as pentathlete Samantha Schultz Achterberg about the postponement and how they’re still training for the games, particularly in sports that require more than just a gym to work out in.
“We understood there was such a risk and an unrealistic idea of hosting them safely this year, so I was pretty relieved when I heard it was postponed,” Shea told Insider, as Roble added: “The priority right now is fighting the virus and making sure everyone is able to stay home and stay safe and healthy.”
Athletes on the US Sailing team have gotten creative while they can’t get on the water to train
Shea and Roble compete in the 49erFX racing class for Team USA’s sailing team. They qualified for the games in February, and were, like many other athletes, prepping for the Tokyo games when the coronavirus outbreak hit.
“We went from this almost manic pace to a screeching halt,” Shea said. “We had to create a plan where we have sustainable energy over the next 14 months.”
- Pedro Martinez/Sailing Energy/World Sailing
They’re self-isolating in different parts of the US, with Shea in Chicago and Roble in Miami, and can’t get on the water to sail together.
For now, they’re working on their strength and conditioning at home and training in different ways like watching webinars with their teammates and studying weather patterns.
The pair said that the adaptable nature of their sport, where they have to rely on Mother Nature for competitions, has helped them adjust to changing plans during the coronavirus outbreak.
“There’s been an interesting educational component to it, too. We have an opportunity to deep dive into some more educational concepts, like the weather, which is obviously something really important to is, but now [we’re] really understanding a weather forecast that might get sent to us,” Roble said. “We’re looking at our GPS trackers from events we’ve done and are able to look at practical situations, too.”
“Ultimately it was the right decision,” she added. “We need to make sure that everyone in the US and around the world is healthy and safe.”
- Brittney Manning
A Team USA pentathlete created a laser shooting range in her driveway to train
Schultz, too, said she immediately felt a sense of relief when the games were canceled, but then anxiety set in as she wondered what her training would look like in quarantine, and what her day-to-day life would be like in general.
She is competing in the pentathlon in the Tokyo games, a sport that includes five different events: fencing, a 200-meter freestyle swim, 15 equestrian show jumps, laser pistol shooting, and a 3,200-meter cross country run.
- Samantha Achterberg
“Things are so different,” she said of life post-coronavirus outbreak. “I’m grateful I’m going to have the opportunity to compete, and I just have to look at it as an opportunity for me to be able to train harder.”
Schultz said her training looks a little different these days. Because of pool and gym closures, she’s unable to swim, so she’s instead doing at-home exercises that mimic freestyle swimming motions. She can’t practice fencing with an opponent, so she set up a target with a tennis ball and is practicing footwork in her garage. She’s still running outside in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she lives, and set up a shooting range in her driveway where she practices with a laser pistol. She can also still visit her horse to train for the equestrian portion of the competition.
For extra variety, she is training on a road bike and going for long walks.
Michael Phelps raised concerns earlier this week about athletes’ mental health
Earlier this week, swimmer Michael Phelps raised concerns about the mental health of athletes, saying he feared there may be more athlete suicides due to the Olympic postponement.
“I really, really hope we don’t see an increase in athlete suicide rates because of this,” he told NBC Sports. “Because the mental health component is by far the biggest thing here. This postponement is uncharted waters. We’ve never seen this before.”
“It was the right decision, but it breaks my heart for the athletes,” added Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time who has been public about this own struggles with anxiety and depression.
Simone Biles, a 23-year-old multiple-medal winner on the USA Gymnastics team, told the TODAY Show that she cried after learning about the postponement but is ultimately planning on competing. She had planned on retiring after the 2020 games, and is now extending her training instead.
Schultz said journaling and keeping a routine have helped her through isolation during the coronavirus pandemic
Schultz told Insider that for her own mental health, she’s been trying to keep up with a daily routine.
“I can be in control of how I schedule out my week, what workouts I want to implement. And I think once I kind of grasped that, it was like, okay, I don’t have control, but I can have control over this certain aspect,” she said. “And the uncertainty is hard. I think all of us can relate to that. We don’t know that things have been changing weekly. Things have been changing daily.”
- Samantha Achterberg
She also launched a YouTube channel and has has been journaling to help her cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
“I was so high stress, high strung,” she said of her feelings in the first few weeks of the outbreak. “My routine was completely thrown out of whack. I’m a big journaler so I just tried to put my feeling there instead of letting it bottle up.”
Ultimately, Shea, Roble, and Schultz said delaying the games was the best decision for everyone’s’ safety as the world takes on the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to show solidarity, we want to set good examples. We want to support efforts to stop the spread even if we’re not a high-risk group,” Shea said.
A previous version of this story identified Samantha Schultz Achterberg by solely her maiden name, Samantha Achterberg.