Before the 2022 Team USA Winter Olympians compete in China, they first have to get there. That means avoiding contracting COVID at all costs.
“As someone who just qualified for my first Olympic Games, it’s definitely not how I pictured the month leading up to it to be,” said moguls athlete Hannah Soar.
After four years of hard work and dedication to land a spot on the Olympic team, Team USA athletes don’t find themselves celebrating much these days. Instead, they are isolating.
“I stay separate from a lot of people,” said luge athlete Emily Sweeney. “It’s probably annoying for some people but I’m just so aware of the red flags of COVID. I think we’re in the last 2 week stretch before we start our process of getting over to China and to me, we see it everywhere. Athletes are getting COVID. Family, friends, everyone is testing positive right now and that freaks me out.”
Sweeney is not alone. With the Olympics so close, athletes from all sports, like cross-country skier Jessie Diggins, aren’t taking any chances of seeing their Olympic dreams dashed by a positive COVID test.
“I think going forward, you’re going to see us doing basically what we have been doing the last year that really worked for us which is just masking, hand-washing, and social distancing,” said Diggins.
With cases surging in the U.S., some athletes opted to stay in Europe where numbers are lower. Most did not see family during the holidays just to be safe. Others, like Soar, skipped World Cup events just to avoid the travel.
“It’s really anxiety-inducing to be totally honest with you cause it’s so out of your control,” said Soar. “I think as athletes, we’re always trying to control the uncontrollables and this is one where you can do your absolute best but you kind of have to juggle your sanity and being able to perform at the Olympics and not lose your mind beforehand. You also have to get there. If you test positive, you won’t and that’s a harsh reality at the moment.”