Sask. coach gearing up for 1st Olympics to be held during a pandemic in more than 100 years

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Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis talks to the team during the second half of a women's basketball game against Serbia at the Youth Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. Canada defeated Serbia 71-67. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (The Associated Press - image credit)
Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis talks to the team during the second half of a women's basketball game against Serbia at the Youth Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. Canada defeated Serbia 71-67. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (The Associated Press - image credit)

Lisa Thomaidis and her basketball team are getting ready for a sporting event that will be like no other.

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games games were supposed to be held last summer in Tokyo, but they were postponed due to the pandemic.

The games are now scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8. If all goes as planned, it will be the first Olympic games in more than 100 years to take place during a pandemic. The other happened in 1920 — near the end of the Spanish Flu — in Belgium.

Thomaidis, head coach of the Canadian women's basketball team and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's team, said she's excited for the games, even with the pandemic.

"It's going to be something," she said.

"There's been a lot of planning, a lot of work and thought put into this for sure … At this stage, we're happy that we're as close as we are and we just want to get there and compete."

Amidst the excitement, she said keeping athletes safe is essential.

This week local organizers and the International Olympic Committee (ICC) released a second version of the "playbook" for the games. Some of the protocols include rigorous testing and mask wearing, not using public transit and only eating at designated places.

Athletes will also stay within a "bubble," moving only between the athletes village, competition venues and training sites.

Team Canada is also planning to implement it's own set of protocols for an additional level of safety.

"We have the utmost faith in our medical professionals that are with our team. They've put in place the protocols and the necessary things that will keep us safe, or as safe as possibly can be," Thomaidis said.

"It's just going to take more planning and a little more vigilance."

ICC will release the final playbook in June, but as of right now vaccines are not mandatory for participants.

Although she's comfortable with the current protocols, Thomaidis believes vaccinating athletes is the best way to protect them.

"They're going to represent our country and going into an environment where people are coming from all over the world," she said, noting there's an increased risk to the Japanese health-care system if an outbreak occurs during the games and there could be another risk to the Canadian system once participants return.

Dr. Mike Wilkinson, the Canadian Olympic Committee's chief medical officer, told the Canadian Press this week that he's confident every Canadian athlete will be vaccinated before the Olympics with the current pace of the country's vaccine rollout.

Thomaidis said some of her players have already received a vaccine, such as those playing in the U.S., but the majority have not.

Australia and South Korea joined the list of countries this week that plan to prioritize Olympic athletes in their vaccine rollouts.

Plans before Olympics

Thomaidis said the team will be getting together later this month for training and then travel to Puerto Rico to compete in the America Cup — after isolating and further testing.

She said she's not sure where the team will be heading after that.

Thomaidis said the team won't be returning to Canada, because current quarantining rules mean they wouldn't be able to train together for two weeks.

"We're going to have to go somewhere else and we're still trying to figure out where that may be," she said.

After that, they'll be going to another city in Japan to train for a couple more weeks, then it's off to Tokyo to compete in what will surely be one of the most memorable Olympics in history.