For Team Trinidad and Tobago’s top rower Felice Aisha Chow, being defeated by the circumstamces around the Covid-19 pandemic is not an option.
Just four days before she was scheduled to fly out to Olympic qualifiers in Brazil, governor Gavin Newsom imposed the shutdown that put an end to that segment of her Olympic journey.
Weeks later, the IOC would announce the postponement of the Olympic qualifiers to the summer of 2021.
Fortunately, although TTO’s first ever Olympic rower (Rio 2016 Games) resides in San Francisco, California — a state that has been on a shutdown since late March — the 42-year-old USA-based athlete is allowed to use her singles craft and has continued a rigorous regimen that has actually become more strenuous.
Blame that on the fact that the associate director, cell biology at FibroGen (a company that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of novel therapeutics to treat serious unmet medical needs) has been allowed to work remotely from home.
This allows one of her two coaches, former world champion and Olympian Sarah Trowbridge — who does Chow’s training plans — the opportunity to increase the volume of her workouts.
A typical day starts with a two to two-and-a-half-hour session on a stretch of water on the Redwood Creek in Redwood City, from 5 a.m. It’s then back home for a full day’s work before committing to either dryland work, a bike ride or a rowing machine session, all completed with at-home equipment.
Saturday’s work period is longer although the 2017 CAC Games bronze medallist benefits from sleeping in a bit later.
“For me, the coronavirus pandemic is obviously a global phenomenon but it has not actually affected my training more than I am now training a year longer than I planned to be,“ the 2019 Pan American Games Women’s 2,000m singles scull silver medallist said.
The uncertainty surrounding sports calendars has spared rowing and she is awaiting word from FISA (world governing body for the sport) about a possible new Olympic qualification event, possibly in January, 2021.
“So that is what I am training for, in terms of how that impacts everything, you sorta have to go with the flow,” Chow rationalised. “On the upside, since I have been training, over the past four years I have gotten faster and faster so if I keep on that trajectory, I’ll only be faster next year. So I guess I’ll try and take it in a positive light and say hopefully, the delay means I’ll be even faster when it comes to the qualifications and have a better chance.”
For Chow, staying mentally focused during the course of the disruptive disease means a mix of both long-term and short-term objectives.
More short-term as in being finely tuned into her daily grind.
“The long term goals like Pan Am Games, Olympics, it is always in the back of my mind a little because that is the main goal,” Chow said, “But really, my motivation comes from day to day, it’s being motivated every single practice, every single time and trying to get the best out of practice, and it’s hard to do that when you are focusing on goals that are maybe a year, two years or three years down the line.”
The day-to-day competition by a couple of male training partners and scullers provide that impetus.
“The thing is, I don’t like getting beat. They are bigger than me but I don’t like to get beat so they push me really hard and so basically, my motivation partially comes from having that long term goal in back of my head but also, everyday I have these great friends, these great guys and they are training with me because they don’t want to get beat by me and I don’t want to get beat by them. So everyday is fun, we try to make it fun and so, that’s the type of way we have been trying to push each other.,” she said about the training sessions that are monitored weekly in person by her second coach Monica Hilcu. Both Hilcu and Throwbridge she described as “really fantastic.”
Chow is aware of the toll the pandemic may be taking on her other TTO athletes.
“Everybody’s situation is different. But I think realising that this is a once-in-a-century crazy event, everyone’s life is affected, every athletes’ life is affected in some way and sort of accepting that you can’t do anything about that and the only thing that is possible is to do what you can do in the situation,“ Chow said.
“If you’re doing everything you can do and you realise everyone else is doing that, too, and everyone is impacted in the same way then hopefully, we will come out on the other side of this feeling good that we did our best in very difficult conditions.”