Athletes are tested by all manner of trials long before they ever get to an Olympic Games.
Mental and physical fortitude are examined every day, not just in the weights they lift or the laps they run, but in the food they choose to put in their mouths and the times with family and friends that have to be sacrificed to a session or another early night.
Every one of the 11,000-plus athletes competing in Tokyo over this few weeks have shouldered the additional and considerable burden of a pandemic that has shape-shifted across eight months and spooked organisers into postponements, cancellations, and events behind closed doors.
Some of them have even contracted Covid and Eimear Lambe, one quarter of Ireland’s bronze medal-winning women’s four crew yesterday, found that her robust levels of health and athletic fitness were stressed like never before by the virus.
The Cabra woman contracted Covid-19 in January, at a time when the identity of the four occupants in the women’s four was still up in the air and the national trials due to come in March. It was the worst possible timing.
“So me coming back, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to make the boat. I kind of virtually lost my seat in it, so I was just kind of holding on, trying to work my way back in.”
The first point Lambe would make is that there were people who suffered far more than her, but that brand of perspective and objectivity must be difficult when you are spending 10 or so days in bed and struggling just get to your feet.
“I had quite a bad cough and headaches and I was quite weak, so it wasn’t good for a while. I’m surprised how much it took it out of me when I was trying to come back, but lucky I’ve had a full recovery now and, yeah, I’m here. It was definitely devastating because coming into January, then that’s when the serious trials start to happen.”