Jessica Lewis set to make return to the track ahead of Paralympics
Jessica Lewis conceded preparations continue to be far from ideal as she gears up to return to competitive action ahead of the rescheduled Paralympic Games this summer.
In the build-up to the Games, scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan, from August 24 to September 5, World Para Athletics has released the updated schedule for the 2021 track and field season including the grand-prix timetable commencing as early as next month in Dubai.
However, while the competitive schedule would normally offer the perfect opportunity to fine-tune ahead of the Games, owing to the ongoing uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, the wheelchair sprinter revealed she is not planning to compete until the penultimate Grand Prix in Notwill, Switzerland, in mid-May, a little more than three months before the Paralympics begin.
“My preparations are going as well as they could be with everything considered,” Lewis said. “I’m still in Bermuda and will continue training with my team-mates virtually for the time being. We are all trying to stay safe and healthy the best we can during the continued difficulties of the pandemic.
“I’m definitely planning on competing in Switzerland. The first set of grand-prix events have just come too soon and going to places like Dubai or China is a long way to go when you still aren’t sure if it’s 100 per cent safe, as well as knowing what the rules are in terms of quarantining.”
With para-athletes more susceptible to the dangers of Covid-19, the 27-year-old’s need to compete is not as great as some other athletes, having already secured her spot for the Games after finishing fourth in the in the women's 100m T53 final at the World Championships in Dubai in 2019.
“I’m just relieved that my qualification spot has been held over because it takes the pressure of having to worry about qualifying this year and not knowing what races I’ll be able to get to,” added Lewis, who is set to make a third Paralympic Games appearance, having competed in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“It would have been a horrible position to be in, and I’m just relieved I don’t have to worry about qualification; I can just try and focus on my preparation.”
While her qualification spot is secured, Lewis, who would have been considered among the medal contenders had the Games gone ahead as originally scheduled last year, admitted it is hard to gauge where her expectations should be prior to competing in Tokyo, with little knowledge of the true performance levels of her rivals.
“All I have to go off is the 2019 results, but everyone has had a whole year of training and no doubt people will be faster than before,” said Lewis, who in that year also clinched two Parapan American Games titles in Lima, Peru. “It will be interesting just where athletes are at after the past year.
“It’s hard to know what level other athletes are at and what their preparations have been like. It means you may not get a true representation of athletes’ levels at the grand-prix races ahead of the Paralympics anyway.
“It’s been difficult to prepare yourself properly but I’m definitely not easing off in terms of my preparations. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to train and I’ve been putting everything into my training. I’m just doing the best I can with everything going on with Covid-19.
“We will all be heading into the unknown at the Paralympics because it will be a Games like no other. However, I know it will be an awesome experience no matter what — and that’s what has been keeping me motivated.”
• Dara Alizadeh finally has a new qualifying date to focus on as he continues his drive towards reaching the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The single sculler, who hopes to become the island’s third rower to reach the Olympics – after Jim Butterfield (Munich 1972) and Shelley Pearson (Rio 2016) – is set to compete in a qualifying event in Rio over the weekend of March 2 to 4, after World Rowing confirmed the Americas Olympic and Paralympic Continental Qualification Regatta will take place.
The 27-year-old will need to claim a top-five finish in Rio to book his place at the Olympics, scheduled to to be held from July 23 to August 8.