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COVID-19's impact on the aspirations of young athletes

The financial impact of COVID-19 on sport has been heard loud and clear ever since its arrival around the globe over a year ago, however, the welfare of athletes has been overshadowed with restrictions possibly derailing the careers of some of the most promising stars.

COVID-19's impact on the aspirations of young athletes

Canadian fencer Thomas Greenwood looked set to represent his country proudly at the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris. However, the deadly virus has forced governments from all four corners of the globe to implement restrictions, which in turn, has cost athletes like Greenwood imperative training and competition time that could bring an end to his career before its even started.

Greenwood is not alone in his fears. Other young rising Canadian stars are also unsure whether they will return to playing the sport they love once the pandemic is in the past, according to a study by the Canada Games Council (CGC), with one in five stating they have no intention to return to their sport.

President and CEO of the CGC, Dan Wilcock, said: "This concerning data suggests that our sport community needs to do everything we can to support the long-term welfare of Canadian youth, by remaining engaged in sport."

Greenwood, who has fenced since he was 13-years-old, was named a part of Canada's under-17 world team in 2019 and trained at Antaean’s facility on Spring Street twice a day, attended specialised high-performance camps in Hong Kong and Korea, competed in Poland, France, Colombia and across the United States, all before the shutdown of the world in early 2020.

“It’s been really strange,” Greenwood started. "It’s one of those things that been a big part of my life, and now it’s taken a back seat."

The Canadian government's support of fencing has been minimal and even when competing at the top-level, it does not provide large sums of remuneration, therefore leaving Greenwood with a decision to make about what his future might look like.

Having opted to learn to become an electrician, the young athlete understands that it may not tie in well with his previous commitments to fencing.

"I hope I’ll be able to step back into the sport again,” he said. “But it’s one of those things that’s such a process, I don’t know if I’ll want to put my life on pause to pursue that.”

Author: Jake Wilkin