Olympic postponement and pandemic lockdown has offered one athlete the chance to get better than ever
(April 7, 2020) – For athletes who have trained and fought for years in order to fulfill the ultimate sportsmen’s dream – compete at the Olympic Games -postponement of Tokyo 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic might well be devastating. But Paige “McFierce” McPherson, one of the top taekwondo guns on Team USA, is not just finding a way to cope, she is finding new ways to train and improve, despite being in lockdown.
“This is the first postponement in Olympic history and so I thank the IOC for not canceling it,” said Grand Prix gold medalist in an email interview. “A lot of athletes were willing to risk their health – including me – for the chance to compete on the Olympic platform”
She also has the peace of mind to know that her qualification is safe.
“I also want to thank the IOC for protecting the athletes that have already qualified for the 2020 Games and have given us some security in the fact that our places cannot be seized due to the extended time frame,” she said.
Despite the lockdown of her hometown of Miami-Dade County in sunny Florida, McPherson is able to continue training with her roommate.
“We had been traveling together before the pandemic and now take the precautions of only seeing each other and no one else.”
Meanwhile, the postponement has, in fact, granted her the opportunity to improve beyond the pre-Olympic peak.
“My coach created a new training plan that is more suited for the longer time-frame at hand rather than what was once only three months’ worth of work,” she explained. “Now, we have the time to truly go backwards – to fine-tune the basics and build on to our overall foundation in technique and fighting tactics.”
And the break in the competitive schedule is a also plus of overall health management as it provides a break in the relentless wear and tear on elite-level athlete’s physiques.
“We have the time to rest and recover from the injuries inquired from the past several years of competition and the non-stop lifestyle of a professional taekwondo athlete,” she said. “This is the first time where we have the opportunity to solely train without any interruptions, therefore, I am very excited in the next several months ahead.”
She encourages everyone stuck at home to get out of bed and work out in the morning rather than pushing it back into the afternoon, at night.
“A set morning training gives you a purpose to be disciplined and creates a schedule for yourself,” she advised. “Without it, days start to mesh together and this confinement will only get more unbearable. Having a set schedule that resembles somewhat the norm is the best way to stay productive and sane.”
Even so, there are the issues of overcoming the strangeness, depression and ennui of lockdown – an unprecedented situation not just for athletes, but for most of humanity.
“I want to remind people that we are resilient. For our entire athletic careers we have faced times of hardship and uncertainty,” McPherson said. “This time is no different as we have felt fear, anxiety, and the unknown before, yet still we were able to find a way amidst it.”
In these trying times, there is a need for everyone to have resilience and courage. As a fighter, McPherson knows something about the latter.
“Without fear, there cannot be courage,” she said. “Fear is what every human being experiences in their lifetime. The right action is not about fleeing or rather denying the natural emotion of fear, but rather the decision of accepting it and walking through it regardless. Courage is not about strength, but rather going on when you don’t have the strength.”
Indeed, the strength required to overcome adversity may, in fact, end up as a positive legacy of the pandemic.
“We are stronger than we believe we are,” McPherson said. “We know that we will overcome this pandemic, and once it is handled, we will be stronger because of it.”