As they prepare for a “Games like no other” in Tokyo later this year, our Para Dolphins wasted no time in the pool during their first national camp of 2021.
Held on the Sunshine Coast at the USC High Performance Centre between 3-8 January, the camp was the perfect way to focus on their preparation and kickstart the new year as a team – albeit without a few members due to COVID-19 border restrictions.
“We know it’s still a challenging time for everyone all around the world and the people who are going to be successful are the ones who manage those challenges the best way possible – it’s going to be a Games like no other but it’s still a Games, so we’ve just got to get up and race,” Para Head Coach Brendan Burkett explained.
“We were lucky to have a good core of the team in attendance who will hopefully qualify for Tokyo, and then those that couldn’t make the trip, we connected with them via technology so they could watch guest speakers with the group and we have postponed their camp for later in the year.”
Some of those athletes who couldn’t make the camp included Paralympic gold medallists Ellie Cole and Tiffany Thomas Kane who are based in New South Wales, as well as WA’s Ben Popham who took home one silver and two bronze medals at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships.
Dolphin leader and Paralympic silver medallist, Monique Murphy, said being flexible during this time and adapting to situations out of their control gives the athletes solid grounding for continual challenges thrown their way.
Not only was this the case with missing members of the team, but also when Queensland enacted a three-day lockdown and cut the camp short by one day.
“I think we shut out as much as we can, but we do need to be aware of what’s going on around us, that’s what helps us to adapt,” Murphy said.
“And definitely being a para swimmer, adaptability is something that we live and breathe every day outside of our performance life,” she added.
While COVID-19 is still making athletes embrace adaptability, and with less than 220 days until the Games, Burkett reiterated the team’s determination to focus on its preparation.
“We’ve drawn on all the things we’ve built throughout this campaign like flicking the switch, which is a mantra of the Dolphins squad, and we’re heading in the right direction.
“Surprisingly and positively we’ve seen at the recent short course championships and state titles some excellence performances, so as an Australian team we’ve handled that challenge of adapting through COVID really well – athletes have been pushing out PBs despite what’s happened.
“We have just got to keep our focus on performance – that’s our job.”
The 2021 Tokyo Paralympics take place between 24 August until 5 September.