COVID-19’s Effect on High Performance Olympic Athletes

Could you imagine being four months away from your life-long dream and have it taken away and told it will happen later on? This is currently happening to Canadian Olympic athletes. COVID-19 virus has caused tremendous losses to the sports industry through the shut down of many leagues and, now, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed. This is a quote from a Canadian athlete on the postponement of the Games illustrates the effect: “For a lot of us, something that is so significant in our daily life has been taken away. Also, that goal that was four months away is all of a sudden 16 months away”.

These Olympic athletes train multiple times a day, everyday of the week, the sport they compete in is there life. They have had competition suddenly stripped away, their training centers closed, and are not able to train with their coaches and fellow athletes. Their identity as a high performance athlete has somewhat been diminished and taken away from them, leading them to not know what to do without their training regiment. They want to be able to compete for their country that they know is behind them, sport is what brings athletes and their communities together. The cancellation of the Olympics has put a wedge in elite athletes way of life.

Canada’s Rosie MacLennan after winning fold in the 2016 Rio Olympics, showing her passion for her sport of trampoline by kissing her gold medal (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Identity is quite crucial in high level sports. Athletes identify themselves with their team and with their teammates and coaches; when you take this away from them they will be at a serious loss. Athletes are clearly upset at the choices of the Olympics being pushed back, although it is a must because of the circumstances. This puts additional stress on the athletes because now their goal has been pushed back. When former Olympian Brent Hayden retired from swimming, he became depressed and unpleasant. The depths of sport importance to elite athletes shows in the lengths they go to for perfection and relative view of life without or outside of sport. Showing that for some athletes, life without sport cannot be thought about without anxiety and stress.

This gave the Canadian Olympic Committee motivation to create an athlete wellness program to help with the athlete’s mental health in dealing with their sport being on pause. These athletes need support in this uncertain time; they don’t know when they will be able to return to regular training or see their teammates/coaches. Giving them programs that are consistent keeps them motivated to keep training hard during these difficult times. Making support available for these athletes who is crucial and necessary, not only for them as individuals, but as for team dynamic as well.

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Featured Image: The Olympic symbol of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games outside one of the many arenas (Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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