Rheann Chung is among the table tennis players forced to put their Olympic dreams on hold in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chung was preparing for the April 15-19 Latin American Singles and Mixed Doubles Qualification tournament in Rosario, Argentina. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), however, has provisionally suspended all activities from March 16 to the end of April. The Olympic qualifying event was a casualty of that decision.
Yesterday’s move by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Olympic Games to 2021 has given both the ITTF and the region’s top players some much-wanted breathing space.
“I’m feeling relieved,” Chung told the Express. “COVID-19 is still in the air, and we don’t know how long it will last. The best thing is to postpone the Olympics. It’s a very good move because health comes first all the time.”
Chung and Brittany Joseph were listed to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the women’s singles, in Rosario. Arun Roopnarine and Derron Douglas were expected to be on show in the men’s singles.
“I am not worried about the Olympic Qualifier,” said Chung, “because this is a worldwide situation. I don’t know when it will be played, but I’m keeping fit at home, doing a lot of shadow training and drills. I don’t have a choice. I don’t know how long this will go on for. I’m watching the news, and taking this day by day. That’s all I can do for now.”
For close to two weeks, France-based Chung has been unable to play the sport she loves.
“Since March 12th, President Emmanuel Macron said that France was on a semi-lockdown. All clubs were closed. No one is able to train or else the club would face a fine, so I have not touched a racket since. All competitions were cancelled by the French Table Tennis Federation (FFTT). But everyone is affected so all players would be in the same situation when competition resumes.”
Chung said that though she is a professional player, contracted to TT Passageois, the indefinite suspension of table tennis in France has not impacted on her livelihood.
“I am not affected financially because things are put in place to assist me.”
Measures were heightened in France last week, in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“France went into total confinement since midday March 17. Persons can go out individually to work, for groceries, to the pharmacy or doctor, to assist the elderly, to walk their dog or to exercise close to your home.
“To go outside,” Chung continued, “you must download a statement form from the government website which you must fill out indicating your identity and address. You must tick the box with the reason why you are outside. The police are on the road to verify why you are outside, and there is a fine of 135 Euros for not respecting the rules. I can only go for a run alone or do my physical inside.”
Chung said she is in full support of President Macron’s COVID-19 measures.
“The government decides when things would resume to normal. I am in total agreement with whatever the government decides because they work with the scientists and medical experts to decide whatever is best for the citizens.”