A Paralympian’s Perspective – Looking Toward Tokyo 2021
All In Sport reached out to Melissa Stockwell, Paralympic paratriathlon bronze medalist at the Rio Paralympic Games to gain perspective on what she was feeling and thinking regarding the postponement of the Tokyo Paralympic Games. As we just learned earlier this week, Tokyo 2021 dates were announced for August 24 – September 5 giving athletes a target to shoot for.
Also check out the interview Melissa recently did with Mike Tirico of NBC Sports.
What were you feeling before the Paralympic postponement announcement?
Before the announcement everything seemed to be going as planned leading into Tokyo. My teammates and I had traveled down to FL for our US qualifier race and I was feeling as ready as I ever have. Two days before the race they canceled it and then went onto cancel multiple other races on our path to Tokyo in the coming days.
What were your thoughts/feelings once the postponement was announced?
I think we all knew it was coming but it was still a bit of a shock when they announced the postponement. It was a sigh of relief knowing it was not canceled and we only had to wait another year. But ‘one more year’ can feel like nothing to some athletes and an eternity to others. For myself, I feel like we were on the home stretch with the end in sight. Another year meant another year of being away from my family for racing and training. Another year not being a part of the new business my husband and I started and another year of turning down speaking events and additional income in order to train. But with all of that, the goal of Tokyo didn’t change and I knew I had to see it though to completion. So we adjusted our training to maintaining fitness, instead of peak fitness and would adjust more in the coming months. Same dream just a different year.
What are some mental strategies you utilize as you look at an entirely different schedule related to qualifying for and competing in Tokyo 2021?
I think right now will be the hardest. The unknown of what the schedule is going to be and still having the motivation to keep up the training. I’ve learned right now we have to focus on what we can control. Our health, spending time with family and doing whatever we need to every day to make us feel good. In the long run it’s nothing we all haven’t done before. A year delay makes it seem like spring of 2019 again and just taking the races one by one. I think when we race again we will all feel even more fortunate to be able to be out on the course. Having racing taken away from you makes you realize how much you truly love it.
We hear the word, ‘pivot’ a lot these days….businesses having to pivot and work in different ways or adapt with a new focus. As an athlete, how are you ‘pivoting’ your training?
I think the ability to pivot means being flexible. Knowing that your fitness right now is not where it will be in a year. Also knowing it’s ok to prioritize a few things other than training right now. Being ok with the changes happening around you but knowing that when things change you are set and ready to go both physically and mentally.
What advice would you have for disability sport program leaders across the country that have had to suspend their daily sport programming or cancel tournaments or competitions? What words of wisdom would you have for them during these uncertain times?
We are all going to get through this together and to do that we can’t lose sight of the programming offered or pending competitions. Find a way to keep athletes engaged whether it’s through some sort of online strength session, a zoom meeting to still see each other and frequent check-ins with your athletes so they know you are still thinking about them.