The year 2020 has thrown up more challenges for elite athletes than many will face during their entire careers, both physically and mentally.

Cancelled and postponed competitions, including Tokyo 2020, the inability to train, the loss of important team culture and support, and the great unknown that is Covid19, have combined to test the strength of athletes at all levels.

The International Canoe Federation has spoken to many athletes who have found 2020 to be an enormous struggle. Where possible, we have shared their stories, so others know they are not alone in dealing with these challenges.

But we know for many people, sharing their feelings and their fears can be hard to do. But it is more important now than ever that the canoeing community reach out to each other, just to make sure everyone is okay, and to offer them support where possible.

The ICF and its national federations will keep the conversation going, and encourages athletes at all level to be part of the discussion. Sometimes the signs of struggle are not obvious, or we are too quick to dismiss them.

National federations, coaches and teammates all have an important role to play. Watch for signs of athletes who may be struggling, have support mechanisms in place, and, most importantly, provide an environment where everyone can talk openly about what they are going through.

The International Olympic Committee, through its excellent athlete365 website, has lots of resources and lots of tips for athletes to help them deal with these difficult times. Our very own Rene Holten Poulsen is one of many athletes who shared their story.

Below are some of the signs you should look out for in yourself and your teammates. Never be afraid to talk about your feelings, or to encourage others who might be struggling to discuss what they are going through.

The athlete365 website can be found here.

Mental health awareness