Olympians Face a Daunting Final Qualifying Event: Staying Healthy

Jonathan Abrams, John Branch, Scott Cacciola, Alan Blinder and Kevin Draper contributed reporting.
Leading photos by Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images (Sweeney); Jurij Kodrun/Getty Images (Dunklee); Rick Bowmer/Associated Press (Bowe).

For circumstances, the 4 guys contending in the team pursuit occasion for the U.S. speedskating group, the existing world-record holders, are restricting the amount of time they really practice together– the event needs skaters to come into physical contact– to lower the danger of getting the infection.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things to Know

The result of all this– isolating prior to getting in more seclusion in Beijing– has positioned a heavy mental concern on athletes.

” Everyone is testing positive today, and that freaks me out,” stated Emily Sweeney, 28, a luger from Portland, Maine. “I keep thinking about all the crappy circumstances I got through to get to this point, and it just feels like such a huge threat simply to be existing in this world right now.”
Preventing Covid-19 had actually naturally been a goal for athletes from the start of the pandemic; getting ill is at odds for people whose livelihoods depend on their physical well-being.
But at this moment the concerns of Olympians– young, healthy and immunized, as a whole– are less about the illness or any symptoms and more about the testing program. Athletes traveling to the Games must produce two unfavorable results in the days before they fly to Beijing, and everybody on the ground there will be screened every day.
Favorable tests could keep professional athletes from boarding their flights to Beijing or require them into an isolation duration of indefinite length when there, rendering all their hard work, all their suffering and sacrifice, basically meaningless. It is not a surprise, then, that some Olympians have been pestered by feelings of vulnerability, a sense that at any point their dreams might be dashed prior to they even start.
” We are playing Russian roulette every single day,” stated Brittany Bowe, an American speedskater. “You can take all the safety measures, clean your hands, use a mask, and in some way you can still get Covid. In my opinion it is luck of the draw at this moment.”

” I was like, No wait, if I get Covid, then Im not going, and thats unfair to me or my teammates to risk that,” she said. “And so I informed them, Hey guys, I just require to remain incredibly safe, and I cant go outside, so we can have a FaceTime event.”
Her colleague, Kristen Santos, on top of double-masking at all times, has put her fiancé “on lockdown” this month, limiting his movements to reduce her risk of contracting a case.
” He went for groceries at 10 p.m. recently,” Santos stated.
In Europe, members of the American biathlon team have actually been running in “roommate pods” while bouncing from training camps to events: Their roommates are the only individuals they can eat with or normally be around without a mask.
” Its definitely forming every aspect of our everyday lives, since it would be a major, significant disappointment to lose out on four years– a lifetime really– of effort for a reckless minute,” stated Susan Dunklee, a biathlete heading to her 3rd successive Olympics, who has actually been craving things as easy as going out for coffee on a day off. “Sometimes you do go nuts in your hotel room.”
Covid stress and anxieties have even reshaped the way teams train.

” Covid frets us more than anything,” said Johnson, who has been holding group meetings virtually. “Were not fretted about any opponent, whether its Canada or Finland or Russia or Switzerland or anyone. Right now, were fretted about how do we get there and how do we arrive prepared to play?”
The dangers of athletes congregating in one place became clear this month at the U.S. figure skating championships, where eight individuals– three private skaters, one sets team, one ice dance group and one coach– withdrew from the event after evaluating positive for Covid.
In other sports, professional athletes are avoiding competitions that may usually serve as last gown rehearsals for the Olympics. An abnormally high number of leading athletes– a group that consisted of the American snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim and the Chinese skier Eileen Gu– elected to avoid the X Games this weekend in Aspen, Colo.
” That was a calculation a great deal of people needed to make,” stated Gus Kenworthy, a British freestyle skier and two-time Olympic medalist who is going to the X Games. He was eliminated for numerous days after contracting the coronavirus in October.

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Maame Biney, an American short-track skater, had actually planned to head out and celebrate with her household and close pals after securing her put on the group– before believing much better of it at the last minute.

Anxious about the unknown, professional athletes have taken fate into their own hands. They have shrunk their lives into streams of socially distanced training sessions and an unending blur of deep nasal swabs.
The snowboarder Maddie Mastro estimated that she had actually not seen her friend or family, besides her boyfriend, given that November. Like other professional athletes spoke with for this short article, Mastro stated she long back stopped eating in restaurants and had actually been using a mask at all times whenever she was far from home.
Nathan Chen, the top guyss figure skater in the United States, has actually been frequently spotted using masks throughout full-speed session on the ice before these Games.
The Australian figure skater Kailani Craine, worried about pulling her mask down for even a moment, has actually been reluctant to eat even on lengthy flights this season, lest she make herself the smallest bit more susceptible to infection, according to her coach, Tiffany Chin.

Updated Feb. 10, 2022, 3:14 p.m. ET

Theyve come too far, for far too long, to mess all of it up now.
Therefore the 8 members of the Canadian maless curling team are spending the 3 weeks before the Winter Olympics sequestered in a rental home in Vancouver. They train only when the rink close-by is empty and otherwise kill time shooting pool, being in a jacuzzi and believing about their families back home.
” Its like a frat home without the booze,” said Marc Kennedy, a 2010 gold medalist and an alternate on this years team, who is handling the disappointment of missing one of his children dance recitals. “Everybody here has pretty fantastic spouses.”
As countless Olympians around the world collectively speed through the final weeks of preparation for the 2022 Games in Beijing, they are incorporating a brand-new exercise into their everyday regimens:
Sidestepping Covid-19, by whatever means essential.
With the Feb. 4 opening ceremony in their sights, athletes are cutting off contact with liked ones, altering the extremely ways they train and, oftentimes, stopping all activities outside the worlds of competition. The job has actually felt significantly herculean amidst a global surge in coronavirus cases inflamed by the extremely contagious Omicron version.

The emotional toll of all this, of residing in fear of getting ill, of completely disrupting their lives to prevent it, has been as taxing as their hardest exercises. However the option– contracting the coronavirus, being forced to sit out the Games and, in effect, eliminating years of preparation and anticipation for this particular minute in their careers– is merely too ravaging to ponder.

” We are playing Russian live roulette every single day,” stated Brittany Bowe, an American speedskater.” Covid worries us more than anything,” stated Johnson, who has been holding team conferences practically. Now, were worried about how do we get there and how do we get there prepared to play?”
In other sports, professional athletes are skipping competitions that might usually serve as final dress practice sessions for the Olympics. An unusually high number of leading professional athletes– a group that included the American snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim and the Chinese skier Eileen Gu– elected to skip the X Games this weekend in Aspen, Colo.
” That was a calculation computation lot of people individuals to make,” said Gus Kenworthy, a British freestyle skier and two-time Olympic medalist who is attending participating in X Games.

Likewise, Joel Johnson, the coach of the American womens ice hockey group, said he was having a hard time to strike a balance in between taking precautions and setting up adequate training time for his gamers. In the meantime, producing negative tests was occupying more brain area than planning for the Games.

Jessica Bartley, director of psychological health services for Team USA, said she and her colleagues had actually spoken with many Olympians fighting with the uncertainty of the moment. Bartley and her group have doled out guidance, and concrete steps little and big, to help put the Olympians minds at ease.
” I believe it seems like its a little bit more in your control if you have these things to do,” she stated.
Therefore athletes are mustering up their last little bits of discipline and determination to browse these final, treacherous days before the Olympics. There is one last begin the race to the Games, and no one desires to stumble now.
” Now is not the time to relax on that things,” Mastro said. “Nows the time to tighten up on it.”