Lewis torn between threat of virus and Games
Jessica Lewis acknowledges major health concerns regarding the rescheduled Paralympic Games amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but remains hopeful of making a return to the world's biggest sporting stage in Tokyo next year.
The wheelchair sprinter should have been one of some 4,350 athletes to be parading out at the National Stadium in Kasumigaoka, Shinjuku, Tokyo, as part of the opening ceremony yesterday.
However, the Games, like much of sporting calendar was forced to postpone with active cases in Japan still more than the 12,000-mark, with the host city alone still recording more than 3,000.
Optimism was renewed among some this week with the countdown to the rescheduled Games ticking below the one-year mark. However, the moment was not celebrated by all with International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons reportedly warning “next year's Paralympics need to be able to guarantee zero coronavirus cases”, adding “they cannot go ahead if protection measures don't improve.”
With para-athletes more susceptible to the dangers of Covid-19, Lewis conceded she is torn between the threat of the virus and her desire to make a third Paralympic Games appearance, having competed in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“I'm in two minds regarding how I feel about the Paralympics with pandemic going on,” she said. “Obviously I'm worried about the virus, but I'm just hopeful that within a year things have improved dramatically.
“If things still aren't all-clear there will be stricter regulations, quarantine periods and I think we'd just be there to compete and then come home.
“I can totally understand concerns. It is all about the safety of everyone and obviously a lot of para-athletes have compromised immune systems so that has to come into your thinking.
“I'm just trying to separate those concerns from my preparations because it's just devastating really. I'm geared towards still going and I'm just trying to stay positive until things change.”
While Lewis finds herself in an uncertain situation, she reflected on the difficulties facing the organisers and also those athletes who have had the memorable experience of a maiden Paralympic Games appearance taken away from them, or at least drastically altered, if the games do go ahead next year.
“My heart goes out to the organisers having to make decisions when things are still so much up in the air,” she added.
“I know the Paralympics in Tokyo would have been so special if everything was normal in the world. It's sad because if it does go ahead it will be massively scaled back and won't be what it would have been.
“It's a sad situation for all athletes involved but especially for those who it would have been their first time going.”
Lewis conceded preparations both physically and mentally have been majorly disrupted as a consequence of the pandemic.
“It's been tough but I've been concentrating on reassessing my goals and being able to look forward to the rescheduled Games is the motivation I need,” said Lewis, who was named Female Athlete of the Year at a behind-closed-doors Bermuda Sports Awards ceremony in July.
“I know I'll be going back to the Paralympics and I just have to wait and be patient.
“I should have been in Canada training, but I came home for the Bermuda Sports Awards and that's when things started going crazy.
“I've been here since and although I'm grateful to be able to see my family and friends, it's meant I'm away from my team-mates and coach, which hasn't been ideal.
“People just think the Games come around every four years but for athletes every second of every day in the build up is geared to thinking about it.
“We also train to hit peak form by the time of the Paralympics and so my focus has had to change as well.
“However, everyone is in the same boat, none of have any idea what is going to happen with Covid and so it is an everyday process at the moment.”