What's it like to be a Tokyo Olympian?

We all know that the Virus-That-Must-Not-Be-Named delayed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Imagine what it’s like for the athletes now preparing for the rescheduled Olympics. It’s as daunting a mental challenge as it is a physical one. They’ve had one year to think about all that could go wrong while the clock ticks on their bodies that only have a relatively short peak. It’s enough to crush mere mortals.

Thankfully Olympians lean towards positivity and that’s always the case when we talk to Australian Olympian Ryan Gregson who shared this dispatch from Qatar a few weeks ago in the lead up to Tokyo. 

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics getting rescheduled until now, how did this change things for you?

The way I saw it, it was an extra year to get even fitter. It is tricky however to delay your preparation by a year to ensure that you get the timing right and you weren’t flying in 2020 only to be hurt in 2021. To do this we changed our training focus in 2020 and focused on longer slower running that made us really fit and strong but reduced risk. 

How is your preparation going for the Tokyo Olympics?

My preparation has gone well so far. I have an important month of racing coming up for qualification [at the time of this interview], but I’ve given myself a good opportunity to race well and I’m excited for what the next couple of months will bring. 

Where have you been located during the lead up to the Olympics? 

As I write this, I’m in Doha, Qatar, as I prepare for a competition on the Diamond League circuit. After this our group will base in the Netherlands. We would usually base in London in a normal year, however due to COVID-19, basing in mainland Europe is easier to get to and from all of the pre-Olympic competitions. After a competition phase over the next month or so, our group will then head to altitude in Spain to top up on fitness before heading to Tokyo.

How has your training changed now that it is getting closer?

My training has changed a bit, but as the 1500m is still very aerobic based it’s still important to stay fit and strong all year round. What has changed though is the amount of competitions we do has increased so we are sharp and race ready by the time the big races come around. 

What is it like in the Olympic village? 

The Olympic village is an amazing experience. In Rio in 2016 I didn’t get to experience too much of it because my event was late in the program so as soon as I got in the village it was all business. In London in 2012, however, when I had finished racing there was still about 5 days to go in the program so I was able to enjoy it. The village is weird in the sense that some athletes are competing while other athletes have finished and are letting loose. The swimming is always on in the first week of the Olympic program, while athletics is in the second week so the athletes would be wired in while swimmers were very relaxed in the food hall and going out to nightclubs as their seasons have finished. A strange blend of athletes all at different stages of their year. There is free McDonald’s in the village too so it’s funny seeing athletes as soon as they finish competing head straight for all you can eat Maccas! 

Do you expect a different vibe with crowds and within the Olympic village with a range of COVID measures in place to ensure everyone’s safety?

Everything will be different this time around. I feel sorry for some of the athletes if this is the only Olympic Games they will experience, however, everyone at this stage is feeling extremely blessed that it is still going ahead with what the world has gone through and how many other sporting events have been cancelled. I have read that as soon as athletes have finished they will be flown back to Australia immediately, so the village experience will be diminished, and a lack of crowds will of course affect atmosphere, but I’m sure these factors will be low on athletes minds. The main goal for athletes will be to go and compete well, and represent themselves, their family, their friends, and their country with honour.

What do you do to relax?

I’m a normal guy and to unwind I enjoy nothing more than having a couple of beers while watching the Dragons and the Swans. I also enjoy travelling at the end of the season and experiencing different cultures. Massage is a way I relax too. I will get a massage once a week, and not only is it physically relaxing, but just switching off for an hour and not talking and enjoying soothing wave sounds or bird noises always leaves me feeling refreshed!


Ryan Gregson is a Peoplecare member.

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