Jessica Fox doubts she’ll compete at all this year, Charlotte Henshaw has not been on the water for a month, and Tom Liebscher has returned to university, as all three canoeists grapple with the Tokyo 2020 postponement and the enforced Covid-19 lockdown.

All three have won medals at previous Olympic and Paralympic Games, and were in the final stages of preparation for Tokyo 2020 when the sporting world suddenly ground to a halt.

The trio came together on the latest edition of the ICF podcast, How Sport Stars Cope in Covid-19 Lockdown, to discuss how they are coping with quarantine and what there hopes are for the future.

Fox, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist, has not experienced a full winter since she was three-years-old. But with Australia enforcing some of the strongest quarantine rules in the world, the 25-year-old has had to resort to canoe slalom training in her family swimming pool.

And while there is still talk of possible slalom competitions later this year, Fox is preparing to rule a line through 2020.

“For us we are not really sure if we will be able to attend, even if there are any events,” Fox said.

“Australia has said its borders will remain closed until September, possibly December, so I’m getting mentally ready not to compete this year, not to travel this year, and to try and make the most of the situation at home, and to put into perspective that this is bigger than us.

“I’m trying to work on other areas, but at the same time not to lose too much fitness and strength and conditioning and skills. It is quite challenging to not know when we’ll next be able to paddle on the whitewater, because there is nothing we can substitute that with.”

I’m getting mentally ready not to compete this year, not to travel this year, and to try and make the most of the situation at home

Two-time Paralympian Charlotte Henshaw has been virtually housebound since Great Britain went into lockdown more than one month ago. The former swimmer, a silver and bronze Paralympic medalist, was excited about a potential paracanoe debut at Tokyo.

Now she’s having to confront the fact her four-year plan has been extended by another 12 months.

“That was hard to get my head around, no matter how much warning you have,” she said.

“I felt a bit of a dip, I felt that lack of motivation, that ‘why are we training because we have so much more time to stay fit for’. I think everybody knows, that last year before a Games, it steps up and you put your body through complete hell for that last 12 months.

“That’s ok, because there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But then suddenly that light has moved even further away, and you have to think how are you going to get your body through another year of that?”

In Germany, Tokyo-bound athletes were given special permission to continue training during the early stages of the lockdown, but the rules have been tightened more recently.

I felt a bit of a dip, I felt that lack of motivation.

Tom Liebscher, a member of the triumphant men’s K4 1000 crew from Rio 2016, can still get on the water, but only two or three times a week. And the four that are likely to go to Tokyo are not able to train together.

Liebscher has decided to use the time to return to his university studies. Like every other athlete around the world, he can’t wait to get back into competition and, ultimately, the Olympics. He’s just not sure what form that will take.

“I’m really happy that they postponed the Games, and didn’t cancel it, but now we have to see what happens in the next months,” he said.

“It’s the Olympic Games. Maybe next year it won’t be so much about the medals, it will be more about coming together, safely.

“But if they have to postpone it for another year, maybe that will be the time some people might quit. I think they will have to cancel then.”

Maybe next year it won’t be so much about the medals, it will be more about coming together, safely.

You can listen to the full How Sport Stars Cope in Covid-19 Lockdown podcast here, or watch the video here.

Australia Jessica Fox C1 Tacen 2019

Great Britain Charlotte Henshaw Szeged 2019

Canoe Sprint
Paracanoe
Canoe Slalom