What's up: Belgrade 2021 now the focus
Following up on the previous monthly What’s Up Column about the impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on student-athletes, this month we hear the thoughts and emotions of Marius Mandl, a table tennis player and student from Vienna, Austria.
Over this period, Marius and his team colleagues from the University of Vienna were supposed to be at the height of their preparatory training for the EUSA European Universities Games in Belgrade, scheduled for this summer. But as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic had spread worldwide and international championships, one after another, had either been cancelled or postponed, it was just a matter of time before the EUSA Games were postponed as well.
Not only an athlete in his table tennis club, the Philosophy and Sports Science student simultaneously operates as a junior coach in the national training center. The lockdown has led to radical changes as far as their training programme is concerned: from one day to another his association had to find a way to continue their training. Marius has always tried to focus on the positives, setting and pursuing new challenges. Even though communication had seemed to be quite challenging at first, he managed to conduct online training sessions together with his junior athletes every day.
“Of course, I missed seeing my trainees, but interestingly, I got to know all of them better,” he says. “Everybody is experiencing the same thing, so the whole team kind of bonded. In the training halls it can be quite stressful, and you don’t get to exchange with others a lot, so I ac-tually enjoyed the different training setting.”
Marius was in the fortunate position of being provided with not only a table tennis table, but also a table tennis robot at home. Thus he was very thankful for being able to continue his passion within his own four walls without harming the health of others. Fully aware of his privi-leged situation, Marius endorses the postponement of the EUSA Games: “In terms of fairness I really welcome the postponement. It enables all the athletes to arrive at the EUSA Games in 2021 at maximum preparedness and to compete on equal terms.”
The crisis has also had its positive effects on Marius’ studies, because he has benefitted from the time during lockdown by finishing his Masters’ thesis. In mid-May, after 9 weeks, he and his junior athletes were pleased to finally return to their regular training facilities as Austria began to ease its coronavirus restrictions. He very much hopes to participate in at least some championships later this year.
Since the 25-year-old also took part in the EUSA Games in Coimbra in 2018, he knows what to expect from the Games: the chance to get to know many young people from all over Europe sharing the same passion, namely sports.
Although the Games have been postponed to 2021, his excitement is still very much alive. Finally, it goes without saying that his ultimate goal is to win a medal at the Games in Belgrade in 2021.
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