Home isolation during the coronavirus pandemic has left javelin world champion Kelsey-Lee Barber with fewer chances to practise and none to compete, but the Australian is taking it all in her stride with the help of her husband-coach.
Her husband Mike Barber is now much more than a coach and confidant, becoming the 28-year-old's physio, massage therapist and training partner because of social distancing rules preventing her from spending time with anyone else.
“Oh, look, from the start we’ve been pretty clear on trying not to bring work home,” Mike Barber said in an interview. “Obviously at the moment, we’re kind of forced to and so I think again we’re trying to stick to what we’ve always done in terms of when it’s training time, we’re all in and we’re professional in what we do and when it’s time to switch off.”
Virtually all sport is now “switched off”, with the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021 and athletes around the world still coming to terms with how to structure their preparations.
In normal times, Kelsey-Lee Barber would be on the verge of heading to her training base in Italy, which she uses as a launch pad for travel and competition in Europe during the northern summer.
Now her training base is her garage, with cars moved out and gym equipment moved in. Her apartment living room has become her yoga and massage studio and the local park her training ground.
When Barber gets access to a proper facility at the Australian Institute of Sport, the normally bustling athletes’ hub in Canberra, it’s just her and Mike training due to virus-related restrictions.
“(We’re) trying to find a silver lining in most of our situations at the moment, even though they are different, still trying to enjoy the differences that they can add to our training,” she said.
It has been nearly seven months since she snatched her maiden world title with a clean final-round throw at Doha in October, trumping her previous career triumph, a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
The lack of opportunity to compete as a world champion would be a bitter pill to swallow for any athlete but it has not lessened Barber’s determination to hold steady and bid for the biggest prize at Tokyo next year.
“And we’re taking very good care of how we’re operating in our day to day life,” she said.
“So I’m feeling very confident that, no, I’m not too afraid of actually getting the virus and secondly, no, I don’t think it’s changed my desire for Olympic gold at all.
“I know it’s changed the timeline and the date for that.”