COVID-19 hurdles show an excessive amount of for athletes who did not qualify for Tokyo

Samantha Stewart has executed greater than 40 days of post-travel quarantining because the begin of 2021.

The Canadian wrestler went the higher a part of a 12 months with out coaching towards a human opponent. She wrestled at a last-chance Tokyo qualifying occasion in Europe with out her coach in her nook due to COVID-19 restrictions.

And regardless of it all, Stewart got here inside seconds of realizing her lifelong dream, to compete within the Olympics.

But Romania’s Andreea Beatrice Ana beat her with a desperation takeout with 10 seconds left within the semifinals of the world Olympic qualifiers in May.

Shocked and distraught, Stewart nonetheless needed to compete for bronze the following day in a 53-kg match that immediately meant subsequent to nothing. She needed to lower weight, and so took a cab again to her resort in Sofia, Bulgaria to sweat it off within the sauna. She sat within the steam, rocking and sobbing.

“I don’t know what’s worse, going there and just being completely outmatched, or going there and literally being so close, 10 seconds away, and then not having it happen,” Stewart stated. “I was super upset afterwards, and what made it a million times worse was I feel like if I had had my coach [Don Ryan] there, it have turned out differently.

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“Talking to my coach on the phone afterwards, analyzing the match, he said he’d scouted this athlete and knew that she was going to take like last-ditch dive at my legs. Hearing him say that . . . made me feel that if he’d been there, if he had been in my corner and said something, it might have changed the ending.”

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Canada named 371 athletes to its full Olympic team on Tuesday, the largest team since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. But if not for the global pandemic, it would have been even bigger. There were athletes such as Stewart who fell through the cracks.

The 31-year-old from Fredericton fought back tears as she told her story. It was a losing battle.

Uncertainty was the largest killer, as a result of I could not plan.– Samantha Stewart

“When this has been your dream for so long as you may keep in mind, and then there’s all these items taking place to stop you from with the ability to put together, and all the uncertainty and all the rule modifications,” she said. “Uncertainty was the largest killer, as a result of I could not plan. I needed to avoid house for lengthy intervals of time, which takes you outdoors of your security internet and your consolation zone.

“You don’t have your support network, my coaches weren’t travelling with me, I was traveling by myself. I did feel very alone and unsupported.”

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Charles Philibert-Thiboutot chased the Olympic 1,500-metre commonplace for weeks however got here up quick. The Quebec City native and Rio Olympian stated it was extra resulting from an Achilles harm within the spring than the pandemic. He had a final likelihood to run the qualifying commonplace in Montreal earlier than the qualifying window closed on the finish of June, however the blustery climate situations weren’t conducive to quick occasions.

Like many Canadian athletes, Philibert-Thiboutot left the nation looking for possibilities to qualify. It was dangerous and expensive, and got here with quarantines upon return.

‘That’s an enormous psychological pressure to not have the ability to go house,’ Charles Philibert-Thiboutot on the stresses of not with the ability to compete in Canada in the course of the pandemic. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

“There were no races to qualify in Canada. So you had to plan at some point in your season to go either to the U.S. or Europe,” he stated. “I’ve talked to a lot of athletes who said ‘I’m going to plan to just get out of the country for a long time.’ And that’s a big psychological strain to not be able to go home.

“Some athletes cope very properly with it. But others, not being at house and coaching in an setting you recognize properly . . . by the top of three or 4 or 5 week-stint outdoors of the nation, where you are residing in a suitcase, quite a lot of athletes have been actually borderline [on the verge] of a breakdown after that.”

On top of normal travel expenses, athletes were shelling out for COVID tests that were required to compete – anywhere from $100 to $400 per test, Philibert-Thiboutot said.

“That’s an enormous invoice on the finish,” he said. “It’s price me a pair grand simply to get examined for all my races.”

Down to the wire

Regan Yee was more fortunate. The 26-year-old from South Hazelton, B.C., was among the last Canadians to qualify, hitting the standard – and shattering the Canadian record – in the women’s 3,000-metre steeplechase on June 30, on the very last day.

“I hadn’t raced at all this summer season till round two weeks earlier than the Tokyo qualifying window closed, so it was fairly nerve-racking,” she said. “We did not need to go all the way down to the States for security causes, we simply did not really feel snug with out being double vaccinated, and with the quarantine restrictions upon arrival again into Canada. We’d been planning to race earlier in Ontario, however then they put in these inter-provincial restrictions.

“So, it was pretty nerve-wracking to leave it to that last little stretch, but I have a lot of faith in my coach [Mark Bomba]. He’s never failed me before, and it all worked out.”

Regan Yee, left, of Hazelton, B.C., was among the many final Canadians to qualify for Tokyo, after shattering the Canadian document within the girls’s 3,000-metre steeplechase. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/File)

Because of Canada’s journey restrictions and COVID-19 protocols, simply qualifying for Tokyo was a tall process. Athletes needed to navigate an ever-changing impediment course of cancelled occasions, medical clearances, and facility closures, all the while not figuring out when and in the event that they’d compete once more.

“It has been uniquely hard for athletes in the Americas to get to qualifying events, versus the other qualifying quadrants around the world,” stated Canada’s chef de mission Marnie McBean, a three-time Olympic rowing gold medallist. “I always recognize the hardship. And I would say [to athletes who didn’t qualify], ‘I’m so sorry.”‘

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