MELBOURNE: When Olympic swimming champion Kyle Chalmers completed what he knew would be his final training session before the coronavirus shutdown, his overwhelming feelings were of sadness and the fear of what was to come.
Fear does not come easily to the strapping 21-year-old Australian, who has endured two heart operations since winning the 100 metres freestyle title in Rio and raises crocodiles and pythons for a hobby.
While it took some “processing” to digest the fact that his dream of defending his Olympic title in Tokyo had been shifted back 12 months, it was the prospect of not setting foot in a swimming pool for half a year that really had him rattled.
“That was my hugest fear, not being able to do what I love which is swimming, and if I couldn’t do that for six months, I was getting pretty edgy about it,” Chalmers told Reuters by phone from South Australia.
“I love training and I love exercising. I think I love training more than I love racing.”
Chalmers is one of thousands of athletes whose dreams have been put on hold following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, while thousands more around the world are in lockdown with their sporting careers shelved indefinitely.
Many athletes are putting a brave face on the lockdown, converting garages and bedrooms into home gymnasiums and posting cheerful videos of themselves on social media keeping fit by “bench-pressing” their children.
Tennis great Roger Federer cheered fans with a video of himself practising trick-shots against an outdoor wall as it snowed at his Switzerland home.
American middle distance runner Emma Coburn, who took bronze in the 3,000-metre steeplechase at Rio, told Reuters: “I’m not feeling stress or anxiety about it. I enjoy in general being at home.”
But the weeks and months of the lockdown will be a time when mental health experts on the payroll of teams and federations earn their keep as they try to plot a path for athletes in what is effectively uncharted territory.
Frustration at the confinement has already spilled over on occasion, with high profile soccer players getting into hot water for breaching government orders on social distancing by hosting parties and drinking sessions.