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Athletes battle anxiety as coronavirus turns life upside down

March 21, 2020 09:45 IST
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Serena Williams

IMAGE: 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams shared an increasingly common sentiment over the coronavirus pandemic on social media, saying she’s ‘on the edge’. Photograph: Paul Kane/Getty Images

With the coronavirus pandemic turning daily life upside down and confining people indoors, 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams shared an increasingly common sentiment on social media - “Every little thing makes me really crazy”.

 

With global sport at a virtual standstill due to the virus, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives globally, many professional athletes have been left anxious as they struggle to cope with all the uncertainty that lies ahead.

“It started out with me feeling like ‘oh it can’t really affect me’,” said Williams in a series of TikTok videos, in which she described practising social distancing for two weeks since the cancellation of the Indian Wells tennis tournament.

“That one cancellation led to another and another and then led to all this anxiety that I’m feeling.

“I’m just on edge any time anyone sneezes around me or coughs.”

While billions of people around the world are suffering the same fears as Williams due to the rapid spread of the virus, the situation has also rattled those hoping to compete at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Thousands of Olympic hopefuls have been left in limbo with many qualifying events around the world postponed or cancelled.

US Olympic committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland told reporters on Friday that the organisation “doubled down our mental health resources” for its athletes, with the Tokyo Olympics set to be held as scheduled in from July 24 to August 9.

“We’ve expanded the accessibility of those resources to a broader group of athletes, and are really working to communicate with them to ensure that we destigmatise any concerns they have about reaching out for mental health support,” said Hirshland.

The pandemic is also preventing many athletes from continuing their usual training regime as several countries are advising people to practise social isolation in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

US weightlifter Katherine Nye had already secured her ticket to Tokyo, despite her sport’s qualifying period being cut short by a month, and told Reuters she was continuing to train out of her garage.

“Some people still had to compete again to qualify, and they have lost that opportunity entirely,” said Nye. “I’m definitely experiencing a lot of anxiety because of the pandemic, just like lots of people around the world.

“It’s not easy to ignore all the horrible things going on.”

Olympic organisers faced increased pressure to postpone the Games on Friday, after USA Swimming called for a delay, citing concern for athletes, a sentiment that many had expressed.

“How on earth are we meant to carry on preparing (as) best we can?” Jess Judd, a British middle-distance runner wrote on Twitter.

“Will someone share with me what races we can do to get times and whether trials will go ahead and when training can return to normal?”

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