How Olympic Athlete Gen Gregson Changed Her Goals in 2020
Long distance runner Gen Gregson was all set to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games for Australia… then the pandemic hit. The Olympics were delayed and her goals needed to change. Gen tells us how she coped with this dramatic shift.
Never did I think the 2020 Olympics would be postponed. This topic circled around the media so much early this year, before COVID-19 really took the world by storm. I remember discussing it in an interview with my husband and we said that the Olympics had only ever been called off for a World War, so it would take something huge for this global event to not go ahead.
When I finally came to the realisation that the Olympics wouldn’t be held this year, it was definitely a hard pill to swallow. As an elite athlete, we wire ourselves to be performance driven. Of course, I love running as part of my lifestyle, but my motivation and determination to push myself to the ultimate limit comes from the desire to compete amongst the best in the world.
With that goal shifted, I temporarily lost my motivation. I struggled to work as hard in training when I didn’t feel I had a goal or immediate direction. It took me a while to feel myself again at training and I had to take a few weeks of down time to work out how my year would now look, without the carrot of the Olympics dangling to drive me forward.
I’m extremely fortunate to have been to two Olympic Games before this year, but in no way has that made this easier for me to comprehend. Every Olympic year has so much more intensity to it compared to other years. To get everything to fall in place and have your body ready to go for the event takes so much more preparation than people could imagine.
I’ve been in a constant battle with my body since the 2016 Olympics, where I finished 9th and made two Olympic finals. From 2017 to 2019, I suffered constant injuries that tested my mental strength in this sport. I made sure that by 2020 I was ready to go and stronger than ever. To have the goal of the Olympics pushed back another 12 months is a scary hurdle to take on, however, I haven’t lost that passion to chase it.
My main coping mechanism was putting life into perspective. I’m a professional athlete and I believe I have my dream job. I’m lucky enough to travel around the world with my husband, who’s also an elite athlete, and race in some amazing cities, year in and year out. We rarely spend much time in one town, meaning that over the years, our family has definitely been the part of our lives that’s been neglected.
COVID-19 gave us an opportunity to slow down and spend time with loved ones and I’m so grateful for this. We spent as much quality time as possible seeing friends and family and our training intensity dropped slightly, so we could maintain momentum without risking injury or overtraining. Ultimately, I thought that if postponing the Olympic Games 12 months was the worst news I had to deal with as an athlete, then I would be just fine.
My year has been very different to any other year as an elite track athlete, however, I’ve maintained the mentality that the Olympics will go ahead in 2021. I’m a goal-oriented person and always have been.
I believe it’s pointless to focus on the fact that the Olympics going ahead in 2021 is still uncertain. If I’ve learnt anything in my time as a professional athlete, it’s to focus on controlling the controllables. For me, that’s my health, my fitness, my strength, and my mindset.
I’m planning on 2021 being my best year yet, and although there’s always so much uncertainty, I’ve prepared my mind to be ready to adapt. Whatever the journey ahead may be, I’m aiming to make the most of every opportunity. No one could’ve prepared for COVID-19 and its devastating impact on the world, but we can all take so much away from 2020 and become stronger people for having experienced it. I know I will.
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