By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – Nearly 400 miles away from his coach, world 100 meters champion Christian Coleman trains for an Olympics that may never take place in 2020.
“It’s different and it is tough because I am not with my training group,” Coleman told Reuters in a telephone interview.
A volunteer coach at the University of Kentucky in Lexington where his coach Tim Hall is the sprint coach, Coleman works out alone in Atlanta these days, residing with his parents while school is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m having to hop the fence at a high school around the corner” to use a closed track, the world indoor 60m record holder said.
Even essential weightlifting sessions do not come easy.
“Most gyms around here are closed,” Coleman said, “so you have to know somebody who knows somebody who owns a gym and is able to let me in.”
Workout plans are provided by his coach but Coleman said he misses the in-person contact.
“It starts to weigh on you mentally because you are not sure if you are doing the right things,” he said of the absence of a coach and training partners to push him.
“It’s kind of nerve wracking because I am trying to prepare the best way I can and also stay safe.”
He is not alone.
“Everybody I have talked to has been extremely affected by these drastic times in some way,” Coleman said.
“Tracks are closed. They are having to go to a park and run on the grass. They are not able to be around their coaches and training groups. And that’s just track athletes. What about the swimmers who can’t find a pool that is open and wrestlers when people should not be in contact.
“This is bigger than sports,” he said of the virus that has killed more than 15,000 globally.
While pressure grows to cancel this year’s Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it will take up to four weeks before making a decision.
Canada on Sunday became the first nation to withdraw from the 2020 Games because of the coronavirus and Australia told its athletes to prepare for Games next year. World Athletics has said an Olympics starting in July would not be feasible and other organizations are also pushing for a delay.
While Coleman is blessed to have a shoe contract, many athletes are struggling to work and train and fearful of bringing the virus home to families, he said.
The sprinter said he too has tried to exercise caution while living with his parents, his sister and her four-and-half month old daughter.
“I try to stay in the house as much as I can, but I don’t have any choice but to get out and train so I will be prepared when this is all over,” said the 24-year-old.
Personally he hopes there are no Olympics this year.
“I hope they postpone it to next year and give everybody a clean slate and do it right,” said Coleman, who had set up his training and schedule to go for gold in both the 100m and 200m at Tokyo before the virus struck.
“Even if in four months this was to pass by, I don’t think a lot of people would feel comfortable everybody pounding into an Olympic village.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Christian Radnedge)