New Brunswick athletes balance competition and isolation in pursuit of Tokyo Games
When Kate Campbell takes to the mats in June for the Olympic karate qualifiers in Paris, it will be the first time she has competed in over a year.
“It feels like forever,” said Campbell, who lives and trains out of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Campbell is one of many New Brunswick athletes who must balance this need to compete with the isolation that comes with traveling as they prepare for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.
People entering New Brunswick are to self-isolate for 14 days, and at the end of April, part of that quarantine is to take place at designated hotels.
“It’s definitely a challenge. It kind of limits the number of times I think it’s appropriate to leave the province, ”said Campbell.
She chose to spend last year in Fredericton and quit competing, while some of her fellow Team Canada athletes outside of the Atlantic Bubble were able to travel.
In a regular karate season, Campbell was often in a different country for a competition every two weeks, but instead she spent that time training and improving.
“Obviously, a full 13 months is not what I’m used to, but I was able to work on things that I might not have been able to do if I was still traveling every two weeks,” said Campbell.
Not all of New Brunswick’s Olympic hopefuls have chosen to stay put. Jill Irving of Moncton competes in equestrianism and moved to Florida when the season started there in October.
There she was able to participate in all the major events of her sport and train with her teammates.
“I felt it was really important to prepare for the next Olympics so that I could be in the ring,” said Irving.
“Our European counterparts – all of their horse shows were closed so we were so lucky we were able to show here and we had a regular season.”
Events in Canada have also been canceled, but since Irving has moved to Florida, she feels prepared for the Olympics.
But it comes at a cost. Other than a short trip home from quarantine, followed by a trip to Ontario to see her new grandchild, she barely got to see her family.
“I have a couple of teammates that we bubbled with really carefully and we cooked together and we did things, but we were all on our own,” Irving said.
Danielle Duplessis of Fredericton agrees.
Duplessis is a member of the women’s wheelchair basketball team and attends school in Toronto.
She has been back in Toronto since February after spending the first part of the pandemic in New Brunswick. Since returning to Toronto, she has not been able to make her usual trips home.
“I would love to come home to New Brunswick at some point to see my people, but that would involve taking full weeks of training and so it’s not doable,” said Duplessis.
She doesn’t think she’ll be visiting her family until the Paralympic Games are over in September.
Find the positive
Duplessis believes the extra year of training has helped her prepare for the Paralympic Games. She’s only been playing wheelchair basketball for a few years, so the extra time has helped her hone her skills.
“I think I really took advantage, funny as it sounds, of being a year behind,” said Duplessis.
Kate Campbell, who has stayed at home during the pandemic, has used time in Fredericton to her advantage. She says she was able to train in a way she couldn’t have had if she moved elsewhere or traveled for competition.
“Given the restrictions and how public health officials took this so seriously, I was actually able to continue training with my teammate bubble,” said Campbell, who did not have to face the same lockdowns as some of his fellow athletes. .
She feels ready and will have the opportunity to prove it during the qualifying tournament in Paris in June.
Duplessis and Irving will find out if they are going to Tokyo that month as well.