COVID-19 restrictions create new training environment for Olympic paddler Anne Cairns

Olympic paddler Anne Cairns is adjusting to new training conditions enforced by New Zealand’s restrictions on public movement due to COVID-19.

“No surfing, no paddling, no fishing, no boating, nothing,” she said. 

“So that massively puts a spanner in the works for me.”

Cairns qualified to represent Samoa at the Olympics in canoeing earlier this year, but on Tuesday the Tokyo Games were postponed until 2021 from their scheduled dates in July.

“We’ve had to change the plan a lot, but because the Games have been delayed by a year it means that there’s no huge stress to do big workloads right now over this four-week lockdown,” she said.

“Really just worried about maintenance, and I can do most of my training over the five days I’m at work.”

Cairns is a firefighter by trade, one of the few essential services in New Zealand for which people still go into work rather than self-isolate at home.

She said she’s lucky to be able to use the fire station gym, as well as the paddling machine she keeps there, to still get in 10 training sessions per week.

“We just have to adapt,” she said, although is disappointed to not be able to get out on the water:

“When times are stressful, that’s always where I’ve gone to, not even just for a training session.

“Everybody has to make sacrifices at this time and that’s just a small one really compared to a lot of people.

“We just push on for another year.”

Cairns said the news of postponement was happily received, considering she feared the Games being cancelled altogether in the back of her mind.

“Knowing I had qualified, that was a really big relief for me because I know there are so many people that are yet to qualify,” she said.

The Games are expected to be held either in July 2021, or earlier in the year to coincide with Japan’s spring and cherry blossom season.

Cairns expects a firmer idea of when they can take place within the next month, which will dictate what her preparation looks like.

“We’ll look at a few different races and training camps, and basically the coach will work back from the race date at the Olympics, he’ll just sort of work backwards and plan our programme from there,” she said.

Cairns was also due to compete for Samoa at the va’a world championships this august, which have been cancelled.

“I’m out of any events to do this year, just have to look down and train which is quite different,” she said, noting it has been 20 years since she last went a year without travelling overseas to race in kayak or va’a competition.

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