COVID-19 blues: Toronto athletes shifting gears following Tokyo 2020 Games delay

Postponement of summer Olympics impacts Varsity Blues
ZACH KOH/THE VARSITY
ZACH KOH/THE VARSITY

On March 22, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced that they would not be sending athletes to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Less than 48 hours after Canada pulled its athletes from the games — the first member country to do so — the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo organizing committee officially postponed the games until 2021.

In the midst of international shutdowns, health crises, and waves of social distancing, it was not a matter of whether or not the games would be postponed or cancelled, but when. Numerous other athletic events,  including the U SPORTS men and women’s hockey and volleyball championships, had already been cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

The ramifications of this decision will impact a significant number of athletes who were vying for the games. Though the IOC has announced that athletes who had already qualified for 2020 would keep their spots into 2021, questions now arise for when and how qualification processes will take place. 

Other questions have yet to be answered, such as the age restriction in women’s artistic gymnastics, which states that gymnasts must be turning 16 in the Olympic competition year. Will gymnasts turning the eligible age in 2021 now be included? Will they be excluded from the Olympics, yet allowed to enter other competitions? It’s also uncertain how this delay will affect the Code of Points, which is the rulebook that indicates the scoring system for each level of competition.

The Toronto Varsity Blues have a large handful of athletes whose qualification plans have been put on hold.

Varsity Blues men’s swimming alum Matt Dans had made the qualifying Canadian Olympic Trials in the 100-metre butterfly event. 

Runner Lucia Stafford, who had a stunning cross country and track field season, was looking to contend for a games berth next to Gabriela Debues-Stafford, her older sister and holder of multiple Canadian records.

Swimmer and Olympic Bronze medallist Kylie Masse was all but a shoo-in for her second straight games, and Rosie MacLennan was vying for a third consecutive gold medal in the women’s trampoline event.

Erica Gavel had already helped qualify the Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team to a Paralympic berth.

This list also doesn’t include the other Blues — past, present, and future — who have either made qualifying times for trials, or who would have been attending the games as a staff member.

So, how are the Blues handling the COVID-19 blues?

Dans wrote to The Varsity that, without access to a pool, he is focusing on ‘dryland’ training. This refers to training done outside of the pool, such as weight lifting, running, or cycling. His training plans have shifted significantly due to the delay, as swimming usually operates on a quadrennial cycle that aims to have athletes in peak shape for the Olympics.

Now, instead of focusing on stroke techniques, Dans is focusing more on building a strong base of fitness for 2021.

However, he’s also using this extra time and self-isolation to focus on other things; he wrote to The Varsity that his go-to relaxation activity is testing out new baking ideas.

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