Athletes battle anxiety as
coronavirus turns life upside down
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[March 21, 2020]
By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) - With the
coronavirus pandemic turning daily life upside down and confining
people indoors, 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams shared an
increasingly common sentiment on social media - "Every little thing
makes me really crazy".
With global sport at a virtual standstill due to the virus, which
has claimed more than 10,000 lives globally, many professional
athletes have been left anxious as they struggle to cope with all
the uncertainty that lies ahead.
"It started out with me feeling like ‘oh it can’t really affect
me’," said Williams in a series of TikTok videos, in which she
described practising social distancing for two weeks since the
cancellation of the Indian Wells tennis tournament.
"That one cancellation led to another and another and then led to
all this anxiety that I’m feeling.
"I’m just on edge any time anyone sneezes around me or coughs."
While billions of people around the world are suffering the same
fears as Williams due to the rapid spread of the virus, the
situation has also rattled those hoping to compete at this year's
Thousands of Olympic hopefuls have been left in limbo with many
qualifying events around the world postponed or canceled.
U.S. Olympic committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland told reporters on
Friday that the organization "doubled down our mental health
resources" for its athletes, with the Tokyo Olympics set to be held
as scheduled in from July 24 to Aug. 9.
"We’ve expanded the accessibility of those resources to a broader
group of athletes, and are really working to communicate with them
to ensure that we destigmatise any concerns they have about reaching
out for mental health support," said Hirshland.
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Serena Williams of the U.S. during the match against China's Qiang
Wang REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
The pandemic is also preventing many athletes from continuing their
usual training regime as several countries are advising people to
practise social isolation in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
U.S. weightlifter Katherine Nye had already secured her ticket to
Tokyo, despite her sport's qualifying period being cut short by a
month, and told Reuters she was continuing to train out of her
"Some people still had to compete again to qualify, and they have
lost that opportunity entirely," said Nye. "I’m definitely
experiencing a lot of anxiety because of the pandemic, just like
lots of people around the world.
"It's not easy to ignore all the horrible things going on."
Olympic organisers faced increased pressure to postpone the Games on
Friday, after USA Swimming called for a delay, citing concern for
athletes, a sentiment that many had expressed.
"How on earth are we meant to carry on preparing (as) best we can?"
Jess Judd, a British middle-distance runner wrote on Twitter.
"Will someone share with me what races we can do to get times and
whether trials will go ahead and when training can return to
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; additional reporting by Simon Jennings,
editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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