By Elio Elia
For Ottawa rower Josh King, there’s one event – this summer’s Olympic Games – that’s kept him dedicated to his craft in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
When the COVID-19 crisis was declared a pandemic and sports around the world were placed entirely on pause, King went from near-daily training to almost none at all.
“I would say the biggest change in my thought process was one moment being a month away from racing to suddenly being another year out from racing,” King told the Sports Pages in a recent interview.
“It was a slow and gradual shift from thinking about all of the racing I was hoping to do in the summer to switching my mind to think ahead another 12 months.”
While some of his Rowing Canada teammates stayed at its training centre in Victoria, B.C. as COVID-19 caused shutdowns across the country, the Ottawa Rowing Club alumnus returned home.
He said he found it difficult to train during the pandemic’s early goings, given that there was no clear date that he would compete next. For months, he trained using a rowing machine, or doing cross-training by running, cycling and weightlifting.
Rowing Canada’s facilities in Victoria usually allow for rowing year-round, but the pandemic prevented King from resuming in a serious, normal-like fashion until July.
“The biggest effect the pandemic has had on our training is the overall volume of rowing is lower than it was before. Before the pandemic we would usually be training 6 days a week, two times a day. During the lockdown and closure of facilities, none of our training would have been on the water,” he said.
When restrictions were lifted to allow for in-boat rowing once again, King and his teammates opened by training in single-person boats. King, who competes in the doubles event in the men’s lightweight category, said it “wasn’t that big of a change” for him, as it was for many of his teammates who race in boats with up to eight rowers.
King’s training schedule with the national program in Victoria has since been normalized following the months of disruption.
“Being back at the (Rowing Canada) centre we get our weekly training program on Sunday and then we know all the workouts we have for the week. That usually consists of rowing every morning, (and doing) weights and cross trains in the afternoons,” he said.
Training flexibility is one of two key aspects of the normalcy in an athlete’s life before the pandemic that King says he took for granted, with the other being the social component of training alongside his teammates. Both he misses dearly.
“There is a lot of team bonding that happens off the water that I hadn’t realized before the pandemic. It’s something that we miss not just because the cold months are upon us again but also because of the added friendship between some of my teammates,” King said.
King is eying the Olympics’ final qualification regatta in May as the next time he will compete.
“I am very excited to get to race again,” he underlined. “Rowing is one of those sports where so much more time is spent training relative to racing that having some races to look forward to is a big motivating factor to all the training we are doing now.”
King and his doubles partner will be vying for one of two Olympic qualifying spots at the May 2021 regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.