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Rower Avalon Wasteneys heading into final week of training before Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Peculiarities of competing amid a pandemic providing opportunities for extra focus

In the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Campbell River rower Avalon Wasteneys and her crew are using the strict COVID-19 rules they face to focus on the task at hand.

Tokyo 2020 is the 23-year-old’s first Olympics, in which she will be stroking with the Canadian women’s eight that is set to race in qualifying heats on July 25. Wasteneys and her crew are now undergoing their final stretch of training from the Olympic Village, after having completed a two-week training camp in Sagamihara, a city southwest of Tokyo.

While others in Wasteneys’ boat have top competitive experience, including Rio 2016 Olympians Christine Roper, Susanne Grainger and Lisa Roman, and coxswain Kristen Kit, a Paralympian, none have familiarity competing on the world stage amid a pandemic.

“We’re just trying to focus on each other’s strengths and go in as a group and support each other as best we can,” said Wasteneys.

The team faces daily COVID-19 testing, strict cleaning protocols and isolation from other athletes. In the village, the boat crew is being housed in a single suite with adjoining rooms, without much in-person contact with the outside world.

While the COVID-19 rules and protocols might seem tedious, Wasteneys thinks they could be beneficial to her crew’s performance.

“We really feel like this is a pretty awesome opportunity for us just to stay focused on ourselves and be completely internal,” she said. “We have no clue what the other crews have been doing; we are just going to focus on what we can do.”

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The result of these restrictions — on top of months of training — is a tight relationship between the boat’s crew.

As a younger athlete and first-time Olympian, Wasteneys is grateful she will not be distracted by the typical sights and sounds of the games.

“I’m here for racing,” she said. “I’m not here to socialize and have fun and all that; I’m here to perform.”

While Wasteneys holds no hesitation that the crew wants to win gold, they are working to maximize their own performance, regardless of external competition.


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