Sarah Douglas: Riding the roller coaster

Published on April 3rd, 2020

Sarah Douglas, training to represent Canada at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the Women’s One Person Dinghy (Laser Radial), provides this update:

To say that March has been a roller coaster is an understatement. So much has happened and I am still trying to process everything. I have always told myself that I will write this newsletter with the good and the bad, so here we go.

Firstly, everything that has happened in the last few weeks has given me perspective. The entire world is full of uncertainty with the global health pandemic that is COVID-19. While this newsletter focuses on the Olympics and sailing, the health and safety of everyone affected by this pandemic is what matters most and we should do everything we can to help our families, friends, and communities (whether close or far) get through this crisis.

I am currently in 24/7 lockdown and hope that we all commit to the social distancing guidelines around the world as we work together to overcome COVID-19. I hope that each of you and your families are safe and healthy during this difficult time.

A volatile 30 days
I started the month of March arriving home after a difficult World Championship. I began the competition strong but let my results slip away. Although disappointed in my final result, I left motivated, with a 31 point lead in the Canadian Olympic Trials and a game plan identifying what to work on next.

Sarah Douglas

I had just over two weeks in Toronto to focus on the gym and prepare for the second and final event of the Canadian Olympic Trials. During this time, I was lucky to have the opportunity to celebrate Canadian sailing by attending the annual Sail Canada Awards where I was able to reunite with friends and the sailing community.

I was honored to be awarded Rolex Sailor of the Year and the Gallagher Skipper’s Plan Female Athlete of the Year.

Following the awards, I started what my trainer called ‘fitness joy week’. I went to the Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario every day that week to complete tough workouts on the gym floor and in the climate room. I was super proud of the work I put in at the gym and all the recovery protocols I had established and was setting myself up well for my next event.

It all starts to crumble
During fitness joy week, it was announced that my next event, the final Olympic selection, had been cancelled due to COVID-19 and the entire season and Tokyo Olympics was now in question. In Canada, social distancing began and businesses started to close. With gyms closing, including the CSIO, I started to look at my options.

I was four months out from Tokyo 2020, stressed, and the pressure of the Olympics started to creep in. I felt like I needed to continue my training and plan as if the Games were starting in July and the only way to do that was to go to my childhood home in Barbados.

It was my best option to be with my parents, continue training and, as a Barbados national, I knew my medical care would be covered if needed. I knew staying in my 500 square foot apartment in the winter was not going to be good for my mental health and would not allow me to continue to prepare for Tokyo 2020.

Back to my roots
Having made the difficult decision to leave Canada, a training partner, my boyfriend and I made the trip to Barbados; it was time to go back to where it all began, where I learnt how to sail and where I grew up. To self-isolate, I was lucky enough to get an apartment a few doors from my parents with a makeshift home gym, two Lasers, and a coach boat.

None of this would have been possible without the amazing support of the Barbados community and Sail Canada who quickly helped me in my time of need. Now settled in Barbados, I continued to train hard as I prepared to compete at the Olympics on July 24, 2020.

The rug gets pulled out from under me
Everything was going well. I established a routine to optimize training, working out and sailing every day; I was mentally strong and preparing for July 24, 2020. As I was going to bed one night, I received an email from the Canadian Olympic Committee that Canada was not going to send a team to the Tokyo Olympics if they were held in 2020. I was heartbroken, but I had to stay positive and hope for a postponement.

With the news quickly being shared to media outlets, my phone began to flood with caring and supportive messages. I was overwhelmed and had to disconnect and focus on what I could control, my day to day.

Unanswered questions
After a few days, I was relieved to see that the Olympics were postponed to 2021. I still have mixed feelings; on one hand, I am happy that my dream is still alive but one more year will not be easy. I have been working towards and preparing for July 24, 2020 for the past four years; my entire program has been planned around that date, and a new date creates a lot of uncertainty.

The opportunity
One more year. This is an opportunity. I have 365 more days to prepare for the Olympic Games. After recovering from an injury last summer, I can replace those missed training days and become even stronger physically and mentally. I am as motivated as ever to work towards July 23, 2021.

I’d like to thank all those who reached out and have supported me and to those who made it to the end of my newsletter! It means so much that I have the community behind me as I strive for excellence. It’s one more year with the same goal.

For additional information about Sarah Douglas, click here.

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