Rowers lives change due to Olympic postponement
A year can feel like an eternity to an Olympic athlete whose rowing career may last less than a decade. A 12-month pause to the Tokyo Games, from summer 2020 to summer 2021, has impacted in various ways.
The one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will affect the world’s elite rowers in different ways. From gold medallists to first-time Olympians, all must rethink meticulously planned training regimens, take stock of their motivation and, in many cases, swallow the tough pill of another year of training for their Olympic goal.
Across the rowing landscape, athletes interestingly expressed approximate versions of the same feeling: disappointing to be forced to wait a year, but postponement was the right choice.
For some top athletes’ life have drastically changed. German rower Jason Osborne, who won bronze in the lightweight men's double sculls at the 2019 World Rowing Championships, was ready to fully commit to cycling after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
For Osborne, “postponement was a huge disappointment. Everything was planned out (for me) after Tokyo and it would have been a smooth transition. Of course, rowing-wise we were hugely motivated, having had a successful year in 2019. It took us some time to readjust and refocus once the postponement was announced. Now everything is sorted out and we're ready for Tokyo in 2021 – and my cycling career that will start after that.”
At 20 years old, Clark Dean has a lot of rowing left in the tank. The two-time junior World Champion just started rowing with the United States senior team last year after trading in his sophomore year for the chance of a lifetime: the opportunity to row at the Tokyo Olympics. Then the Covid-19 pandemic stroke.
But through these uncertain times, Dean have been “trying to roll with the punches so to speak. Initially for me, that meant getting home to my family in Sarasota, cross training and spending more of my day working compared to training.”
“After a couple months of this general pattern I have begun to train more full time again and more rowing specific training as well. There are still so many variables left to be answered going forward with rowing and school, so I am just trying to put myself in the best position possible when racing starts again, whenever that happens,” says Dean.
The Olympics may just be on a one-year pause, but time marches relentlessly on. For older athletes, the calculus of a one-year postponement includes how much is left in the body. Forty-one-year-old Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand, the two-time Olympic men’s single gold medallist had planned to retire after the Tokyo Games. Drysdale confesses that the one-year delay had left him struggling for motivation. He has confirmed he'll be making one last bid for Olympic glory in Tokyo next year after the lockdown period has re-stoked his competitive fires.
Rowing at the Olympics in 2021 will be a challenge. Athletes will come into it with completely different experiences in terms of how they handled the impact of Covid-19, how much they were able to row on the water, the time they could spend with coaches and team mates and many other factors. Racing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021 comes with more variables to success than previously experienced.