Two-time Olympic sprint kayaker and Nova Scotian Mark de Jonge was supposed to be in Florida this week, training for what would be a third Olympic appearance. Instead, he and his family are in self-isolation at their Halifax home.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster” said De Jonge, sitting under a framed photo from a 2016 Olympic photo emblazoned with the Canada motto Fire in Our Hearts, Ice in our Veins. “I ended up driving home the end of last week and now here I am, just hanging out in my basement. Not really what I had planned.”
De Jonge, like most Canadian athletes this week, is disappointed but not surprised by the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The announcement comes after the Canadian Olympic Committee said they won’t send athletes to compete if the games went ahead as planned.
“A lot of this stuff wasn’t surprising to me,” he said. “It’s obviously hard to be told to leave your Olympic training camp but if you just looked at Italy or China around that same time you can see the extent of this pandemic. It’s been rough but it could be a heck of a lot worse too.”
De Jonge is no stranger to the feeling of being an Olympian. He won a bronze medal in the K-1 200 metres at the 2012 Olympics in London and competed for Canada again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He is a two-time world champion and was recently named one of the top Nova Scotian athletes in history.
This time around, De Jonge is the veteran on a K4 team with three other members who have yet to live the Olympic dream. He’s been keeping in contact through group chats and the overall mood is disappointment but relief that Canada is still in the game for 2021.
“It’s very precious to be going to an Olympic Games and we were so close to doing that, we were just weeks away,” said De Jonge, “but it’s obvious the circumstances are what they are, you have to just suck it up. It’s another year, if we can wrap our heads around this and come out of these quarantine situations ready to get back on the water again, it shouldn’t really hold us back too much.”
As for right now, training is the last thing on his mind. De Jonge is focused on caring for his three-year-old son while his wife works from home.
“I was able to play in the backyard with my son and make a snowman today and that’s not really an Olympic level workout,” he laughs, “but it’s better than sitting on the couch.”
Like most young families are realizing as of late, getting to spend more time with your kids could be a silver lining in all this.
“It’s an opportunity for different things that you don’t get when you’re in Florida training. I’m hanging out with my son a lot right now and that really hasn’t been the case all winter, I’ve been away a lot. Being around the house is something that you can take for granted. I know as soon as we ramp up again it’s going to be flat out until 2021.”
He may not make the podium in 2020, but he owns the podium when it comes to being a dad.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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