NACAC athletes find motivation and new appreciation for life in times of Covid-19

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Andrea Vargas (CRC) during the Panamerican Games Lima 2019 – Photo AFP

The impact of the coronavirus has been immense around the world and athletes in the North America and the Caribbean have not been immune to that. However, their motivation remains high as many continue to train despite the challenges with their Olympic dreams in mind.

Costa Rica’s Andrea Carolina Vargas, who finished fifth in the 100m hurdles at last year’s World Championships in a national record of 12.64, has been training in Portland, Oregon, since October. The Pan American Games champion moved with her husband, who is working for Intel, and their five-year-old daughter.

“I have not stepped on the track since late March,” said the 24-year-old. “Where I live, there is a quiet road nearby with a slight hill and that’s where I train. I have also placed hurdles and done some drills to keep my skills. I have purchased a set of weights and do the strength portion at home.”

Vargas keeps daily contact with her mother and coach Dixiana Mena, who also coaches her younger sister and race walking national record-holder Noelia Vargas.

“This new reality makes it more important to have a family and support each other. I have also used my spare time to teach my daughter before she joins school in September. I also spend time cooking, baking and learning English.

“Moving to a new place and then being hit by this pandemic can be challenging as I do not have my family nearby, but we find support in the Costa Rican community in Portland,” she added. “It makes me appreciate the new environment but also appreciate what we have at home, especially coffee.”

Pablo Ibañez (ESA) – Photo La Prensa Grafica

El Salvador’s Pablo Ibañez, the national record-holder in the 400m hurdles, has also had support from family members.

“I have not stepped on a track since the pandemic started in March,” he said. “I am training at home and have plenty of motivation as my three other (younger) siblings do athletics as well.” Younger brother Esteban is the Pan-American U20 decathlon bronze medallist, while sister Gabriela and brother Samuel also compete in combined events.

The Ibañez family acquired a set of weights to work and he hopes to compete again this year, perhaps at the National Championships in December. In the meantime, he has completed his third year of law studies online at the National University.

“I miss seeing my fellow athletes and coach from the Club Atletico Sanjatts,” he said. “I have only seen her twice in person, but we remain in touch via Zoom.”

mexsport
Paola Moran (MEX) – Photo MexSport

World University Games 400m champion Paola Moran has been able to train on the track three times a week in Guadalajara since March, despite the pandemic. The facility is now open every day to elite athletes.

“I haven’t seen my coach in person since then,” says the Pan-American Games silver medallist. “As an older person, he has not been granted access to the track to protect his health.

“When the (Olympic) Games were postponed, I lost a sense of not having a goal in mind. But then I internalised the benefits of having an extra year to prepare.  Last year was a big one for me. I am highly motivated to run at the Olympic Games and I have been working with a sports psychologist to help me achieve my goals.

“This new Covid reality has taught me to appreciate what’s really important in life and prioritise that: health and family.”

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SOURCE: World Athletics

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