Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Stanford rower Matthew Bohrer is competing in the 2018 U.S. rowing world championships at the Covid Grand Challenge Course for his third consecutive year of qualifying for the upcoming Olympics, but he’s faced with a tough course that challenges even experienced athletes who can’t “come home” to win time trials yet again.

The “espn ole” is the final qualifying event for the Olympics. It will take place in London on July 31st, with all events taking place on a single day. The competition is very difficult and there are many athletes who have been struggling to qualify.

Olympians Face a Daunting Final Qualifying Event: Avoiding Covid

Years of preparation for athletes heading to Beijing might be for nothing if they get the coronavirus now. They’re hunkering down, rejecting friends, and missing contests to escape it.


23rd of January, 2022 7:30 a.m. ET update

They’ve gone much too far, and for far too long, to ruin everything now.

As a result, the eight members of the Canadian men’s curling team are holed up in a Vancouver rental property for the three weeks leading up to the Winter Olympics. They only train when the rink nearby is unoccupied, and they spend the rest of their time shooting pool, relaxing in a hot tub, and daydreaming about their family back home.

Marc Kennedy, a 2010 gold medalist and alternate on this year’s team, who is grappling with the sadness of missing one of his kids’ dance recitals, described it as “like a frat house without the beer.” “Everyone here has fairly amazing wives.”

Thousands of Olympians across the globe are incorporating a new workout into their daily routines as they race through the last weeks of training for the 2022 Games in Beijing.

By all means necessary, get around Covid-19.

Athletes are cutting off touch with loved ones, altering the way they practice, and, in many instances, abandoning all activities outside of competition as the Feb. 4 opening ceremony approaches. A worldwide spike in coronavirus infections exacerbated by the highly infectious Omicron strain has made the endeavor seem more daunting.

The emotional toll of it all, of living in constant dread of being ill and completely changing their life in order to prevent it, has been as draining as their most strenuous exercises. But the alternative — acquiring the coronavirus and being forced to miss the Games, thereby wiping years of preparation and anticipation for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — is just too painful to contemplate.

Emily Sweeney, a 28-year-old luger from Portland, Maine, said, “Everyone is testing positive right now, and that worries me out.” “I keep thinking about all the bad things I’ve been through to get here, and it just seems like such a massive risk just to be alive in this world right now.”

Avoiding Covid-19 has been a priority for sportsmen from the beginning of the epidemic; being ill is inconvenient for those whose livelihoods are dependent on their physical health.

However, at this stage, Olympians’ worries — young, athletic, and vaccinated as a group — are more about the testing process than the sickness or any symptoms. Athletes flying to Beijing must have two negative findings in the days leading up to the Games, and everyone on the ground will be examined every day.

Positive tests might prevent competitors from flying to Beijing or put them into a prolonged isolation period once they there, making all of their hard work, pain, and sacrifice completely useless. It’s no wonder that several Olympians have experienced emotions of powerlessness, as if their ambitions may be crushed at any moment before they even begin.

“Every single day, we’re playing Russian roulette,” said Brittany Bowe, an American speedskater. “You may take all the measures, wash your hands, put on a mask, and still get Covid. At this point, I believe it’s just luck of the draw.”

Athletes who are afraid of the unknown have taken matters into their own hands. Their lives have been reduced to a series of socially isolated training sessions and a never-ending haze of deep nose sweeps.

Maddie Mastro, a snowboarder, estimated that she hadn’t seen her family or friends since November, save from her partner. Mastro, like the other athletes questioned for this piece, stated she stopped eating out a long time ago and always wore a mask while she was away from home.

Nathan Chen, the top American men’s figure skater, has been seen wearing masks during full-speed practice sessions on the rink leading up to the Games.

According to her coach, Tiffany Chin, Australian figure skater Kailani Craine has been hesitant to eat even on long flights this season because she is afraid of exposing herself to infection if she takes her mask off for for a second.

After clinching her spot on the squad, Maame Biney, an American short-track skater, had planned to go out and celebrate with her family and close friends, but she changed her mind at the last minute.

“I was like, ‘No wait, if I get Covid, I’m not going, and risking that isn’t fair to me or my colleagues,” she said. “So I told them, ‘Hey folks, all I need to do is keep really cautious, and I won’t be able to walk outside, so we can have a FaceTime party.’”

Kristen Santos, in addition to always double-masking, has placed her fiancé “on lockdown” this month, restricting his activities to reduce her chance of catching a case.

“The other day, he went grocery shopping at 10 p.m.,” Santos added.

While traveling between training camps and tournaments in Europe, members of the American biathlon team have been living in “roommate pods,” where their roommates are the only people they can dine with or be with without wearing a mask.

“It’s absolutely affecting every area of our day-to-day lives,” Susan Dunklee, a biathlete competing in her third straight Olympics, said. “It would be a tremendous, major sadness to lose out on four years — a lifetime really — of hard effort for a thoughtless moment.” “In your hotel room, you may go insane.”

Covid fears have even changed the way teams practice.

For example, to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, the four men competing in the team pursuit event for the United States speedskating team, the current world-record holders, are limiting the amount of time they actually practice together — the event requires skaters to come into physical contact —

Similarly, Joel Johnson, the coach of the American women’s ice hockey team, said he was striving to find a balance between taking safeguards and ensuring that his players had enough training time. For the time being, generating negative tests took up more mental space than preparation for the Games.

“Covid is our biggest concern,” said Johnson, who has been having virtual team meetings. “We’re not concerned about any opponent, whether it Canada, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, or anybody else.” We’re now concerned about how we’ll get there and how we’ll arrive prepared to perform.”

Eight participants — three solo skaters, one pairs team, one ice dance team, and one coach — withdrew from the U.S. figure skating championships this month after testing positive for Covid.

Athletes are missing tournaments that would ordinarily serve as final dress rehearsals for the Olympics in other sports. An unusually large number of prominent competitors, including American snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim and Chinese skier Eileen Gu, have decided to boycott the X Games in Aspen, Colorado, this weekend.

Gus Kenworthy, a British freestyle skier and two-time Olympic winner who is competing in the X Games, stated, “That was a calculation a lot of people had to make.” After catching the coronavirus in October, he was completely incapacitated for many days.

The cumulative impact of all of this — isolating before further isolating in Beijing — has put a severe mental strain on athletes.

Jessica Bartley, Team USA’s head of mental health services, said she and her colleagues have heard from a slew of Olympians who were dealing with the stress of the moment. Bartley and her staff have provided direction and concrete methods, both large and little, to assist the Olympians relax.

“I believe having these things to do makes you feel a bit more in control,” she remarked.

As a result, competitors are summoning their last ounces of discipline and drive to get through these critical last days before the Olympics. In the race to the Games, there is one more push, and no one wants to falter now.

“This is not the time to relax on it,” Mastro added. “This is the moment to tighten things up.”

Reporting was supplied by Jonathan Abrams, John Branch, Scott Cacciola, Alan Blinder, and Kevin Draper.

Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images (Sweeney); Jurij Kodrun/Getty Images (Dunklee); Rick Bowmer/Associated Press (top photos) (Bowe).

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