The future of the Summer Olympics is still up in the air, and could indicate the future of the 2022 Games in Beijing.
Even with all the restrictions and obstacles, athletes are pushing forward and finding ways to train.
“I started skiing on the World Cup Tour when I was 15 years old, and made the Olympics when I was 17. Now, I’m here training for the 2022 games in Beijing,” Tess Johnson, Olympic mogul skier with the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, said. “We dedicate our lives to this sport. We eat, sleep, breathe mogul skiing and that's what we have to do to be the best.”
Opportunities to train and compete have become less frequent. On this day, mogul skiers on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team were practicing on what they call an on-snow training day in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
“Our goal is to just continue training until we just don't train anymore here on the snow in North America,” Matt Gnoza, the U.S. Mogul Team Head Coach for U.S. Ski and Snowboard, said.
The pandemic has changed how they are able to train.
“We’re used to skiing 12 months a year. From March 2020 to December, for eight months, we didn't have any access to a full length mogul course for our training,” Gnoza said. “We had a schedule going into the year of 12 World Cup events. At this point in time as we approach February, we've had three of the 12. We've seen a large number of events canceled because of COVID and because of travel restrictions.”
Now the team operates in a bubble -- traveling where they can, when they can to get as much practice as possible without interacting with others outside the bubble. It's similar to how the NBA operated its basketball season in 2020.
“When we bubble in to a training camp or bubble in to a competition, we bubble in as a team and we become really dependent on one another in those bubbles,” Gnoza said.
“We can’t go to gyms, we can't go anywhere in public. And that strength training is a huge piece of our careers. It’s how we stay strong, it’s how we avoid injury,” Johnson said. Instead of gyms, it’s garages, outdoor spaces, and using things around you to get in training.
“We bring bands, TRXs, sometimes we bring weights and plates which is very heavy,” Johnson explained. “One of my teammates and I are using towels to pull up and try and get some resistance.”
Training this year has been different for these young athletes.
“This past year especially was difficult to find the motivation and keep going when so many things were getting canceled. It's just part of it though. It’s part of any passion,” she said.
Johnson started competing at 9 years old. Participating in the Olympics has been her dream since she was a young teenager.
For now, these winter athletes are training day in and day out, looking at the future of the Summer Olympics this year to indicate whether or not their competitions will take place.
“We’re looking at our Olympic friends in the Summer Games and hoping for them that the games do happen in the summer of 2021 in Tokyo. That would be a really positive sign for Beijing in 2022,” Gnoza said.
“As long as it happens and we get that opportunity to ski in another Olympics, I’ll be a happy girl,” Johnson said.