Calgary athlete remains hopeful Olympics will go forward this summer
Rumours swirled this week around possible cancellation, but Haley Daniels is still training
An Olympic hopeful is trying to keep her head above water amid speculation over whether the Summer Games will go ahead in six months.
"We have to focus on what we can control," said Haley Daniels, a member of Canada's canoe slalom team, from her home in Calgary.
On Friday, British tabloid The Times reported that Tokyo was looking to get out of hosting the Games. The Japanese government dismissed the report, and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has said he is confident the Games will go ahead July 23 to Aug. 8, after being postponed last year.
Daniels said she woke up to a flood of condolence text messages that day.
"I didn't believe it … it was a mini heart attack," she said.
Daniels said she and other athletes reached out to Olympic officials, who reassured athletes the Games would go forward.
- WATCH | IOC denies reports Tokyo Olympics may be cancelled
Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker has said the committee has confidence the Games can be staged in a safe way.
"I hope that we can make it happen safely," Daniels said.
"At the end of the day the Olympics was started to bring nations together … I think if we can have an Olympics to bring the world back together, so be it, let's have it."
Much of Japan, including Tokyo, is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and a recent study found that a government campaign promoting domestic tourism may have contributed to the sharp increase in cases.
The country reported 5,047 new cases and 108 new deaths, a daily record, on Friday.
Daniels said she's preparing herself for the possibility the Games won't go forward.
She said personally, the impact the pandemic has had on athletes has been a setback but she's trying to stay hopeful.
"I'm 30-years-old and I thought that when I was 29 I'd hopefully be competing in my first Olympic Games," she said. "There's no other way to describe it, it's a blow ... but for me it was also an opportunity to really slow down and look at how I can be better."
Daniels said this is the most time she has spent at home in Canada in 15 years.
"We're on the road close to nine months of the year … it's hard because when you're a high-performance athlete your identity is defined in your vocation. When I finish work I don't get to go home and put my feet up," she said.
If the Games don't go ahead, it oddly won't be the only time a member of Daniels' family has seen their Olympic dreams dashed.
Her uncle Tom Daniels made the Olympic team for water polo in 1980, the year Canada boycotted the Summer Games in Moscow due to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
Michael Holroyd, Daniels' coach and the head coach for Alberta Slalom Canoe Kayak, said he hopes athletes like Daniels have the opportunity to compete.
"For Haley it's enormous, right? It's everything she's been working for, for 15 years now."
He said athletes have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic, from dealing with cancelled events to training at home. He hopes that flexibility will be an asset in the long-term.
"I just remain hopeful and go from there," he said.
Daniels has been training on the Kananaskis River on days warmer than 0 C. Last week her life jacket froze to her body. On colder days, she's training in her garage — a makeshift gym that includes weights purchased at Value Village. But right now with travel not an option, it's how she can keep going.
"That's the only way we can train right now, so we just have to look at what we can do and do it," she said.
With files from Terri Trembath and Reuters