Concerns are growing that some people are beginning to squirm more under the current restrictions the longer they go on. Nicole Turner is, if anything, finding it easier now than when the country was first put under lock and key.
“When it first kicked off I will admit it was horrible,” said the Paralympic swimmer and world bronze medallist who struggled initially with the loss of a rhythm and a routine that demanded six days a week in the pool across all but a month of the year.
The longest Turner had gone before all this kicked off without dipping a toe in the water was just over three weeks. It’’s been double that already since she last got her feet wet but the new normal has finally begun to sit that bit easier.
It’’s been some change.
Gone are the three-and-a-half hours a day spent in the car up and back from Portarlington in Laois to the National Aquatic Centre (NAC). Gone with it is all that tailored training and in its place is a more ad hoc regime monitored from a distance by her coaches and support staff.
She is far from alone in that boat.
Runners can still pound a road or a treadmill. Rowers can spend hours on an ergo machine. Very few swimmers can ape what the Canadian Para swimmer Danielle Kisser did recently in building a one-lane swimming pool in their own back garden.
Turner has a bike, a rowing machine and a gym set up in her garage which, apart from anything it does for her fitness levels, allows for some ’’me time’’ in a house containing her parents and older brothers Daniel and Ciaran.
What she doesn’’t have to distract her is schoolwork.
For Turner, still only 17, her sport is the priority right now and she makes no bones about it.
She was still in second year when she joined the NAC swim club 80km up the road. That required a dispensation from her school Coláiste íosagáin to miss last class every day just to make sessions on time. She pressed pause on her education completely this year with Tokyo in mind.
She wasn’’t the only athlete around the world to make that sort of sacrifice but she would be among the younger cohort. There are still doubts over the Games happening next year if no vaccine is available, but Turner has already decided to put school on hold again.
That determination is admirable given she would then be 19 years old starting fifth year with people two years her junior, and in the knowledge that her classmates and friends from years previous would be beginning new lives in college or the workforce.
“Leaving school after transition year was pretty upsetting,” says Turner who, as the youngest member of Team Ireland, was chosen as flag bearer for the closing ceremony in Brazil. “You don’’t realise: you go from seeing your friends and classmates, a bunch of people, every day...
“I was lucky enough to see them maybe once a week or once every fortnight so there was that challenge. If I do go back [to school] after Tokyo it will be a completely different year and they will be much younger than me but hopefully if I do well in Tokyo it will all be worth it.”
It may be her journey but others are helping to drive it forward. Literally, in her mother’’s case.
Bernie Turner had planned to return to the workplace some time after Nicole was born but then the swimming bug bit and mum’’s life detoured to one of driver and almost companion to a daughter whose dedication matches her talent.
Mrs Turner eats her evening meals out of a thermal flask as she sits and watches her daughter train at the NAC. A decision to take up crochet as a means of passing all those hours in the bleachers has already paid off in the form of a small selection of blankets.
All those journeys up and down to Dublin were made that bit easier three years ago when Toyota provided them with a sponsored car for the Tokyo cycle but the pair;s bond was emphasised further when they took a ten-day break together after last year’’s World Championships.
“There was a few times when we were sick at the sight of each other but we are together seven days a week nearly 24 hours a day. I went away late last year on a training camp for not even a week and it was up in Dublin but it was just so weird that we weren’’t with each other that time.”
Now they’’ve all the time in the world.
Nicole Turner is a Toyota ambassador and a World & European Medallist Paralympian swimmer. Toyota is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland. Toyota’’s team of five Irish athletes; Nicole Turner, Ellen Keane, Jason Smyth, Noelle Lenihan and Patrick Monahan will all feature in their "Start Your Impossible" campaign as they prepare for the Tokyo Games in 2021. Visit www.Toyota.ie for more information on Start your Impossible.