Three-time Olympian Peter Kauzer always thought Tokyo 2020 would be his final Olympic Games, but since Covid-19, the 2016 canoe slalom silver medalist is not so sure.

The 36-year-old Slovenian, who carried his country’s flag at the 2012 opening ceremony in London, still has to qualify for Tokyo, but he told the latest edition of the ICF’s Planet Canoe podcast that he’s feeling strong enough to go on to Paris in 2024, when he’ll be 40.

“My long term vision has changed a little bit during the quarantine time,” Kauzer said.

“Even before Rio I said that I would go until Tokyo, and that didn’t change. Even the postponement of the Games didn’t change the planning of my career because I was planning to compete next year anyway, because next year we have a world championships in Bratislava, which I’ve always said is my home course.

“Now with this season the way it is, I’m putting my options open for another Olympic cycle. If next year is the Olympic year, and hopefully it will happen, then its only two years for the next one.

“I love this sport, I love what I do. I’m just curious to find out to where I can go. In our sport you are learning every day, and I just want to see how far I can reach. I still feel that I can reach higher than I’m reaching now.”

My long term vision has changed a little bit during the quarantine time.

When canoe slalom competition eventually starts again, Kauzer will be raring to go. Such is your status as an Olympic silver medalist in a country of around 2 million people, that extra effort is made to ensure you can still do what you love, albeit with restrictions.

And earlier this month Slovenia became one of the first countries to allow slalom racing again, although it was restricted to local entries only and there were a lot of health precautions in place.

“I was one of the lucky ones, because I could still paddle on the river every day,” Kauzer said.

“I didn’t, but… I come from a small town, and we disinfected the club and I was the only one who was using the facilities in the club.”

Like most of the northern-hemisphere based slalom athletes, Kauzer headed to Sydney for the Australian summer. He returned to Europe fired up and confident, but then just like everyone else, his world was turned upside down.

“I was in really good shape, and I couldn’t wait for the international season to start, then everything is cancelled or postponed,” he said.

“Motivation falls down a little bit, but luckily I love what I do so it was not hard for me to go paddling. It was just like free paddling, just for my health.”

Like nearly every elite athlete on the planet, it’s the great unknown about Covid-19 which worries Kauzer. Sure, fit people under 40 seem not to suffer too badly if they contract it – many of them don’t even know they’ve got it.

Motivation falls down a little bit, but luckily I love what I do so it was not hard for me to go paddling.

But it’s the potential for long term damage that is the concern, especially for older athletes.

“If we get the virus, it can mean the end of the season, or maybe the end of your career, you never know,” he said.

“We have to be cautious. And even if I get through it easily, I don’t want to infect my close family, all the people I love.

“I don’t want to risk the chance of getting it. If I was 20-years-old and I missed one season, it would not be a problem, but I will be 37 this year and I don’t have many seasons in front of me.

“So I try to be cautious at every step.”

The full interview with Peter Kauzer can be heard on the Planet Canoe podcast page.

Canoe Slalom