By Gracie Elvin
Day one: Catalonia. I’m an Australian professional cyclist who lives in Catalonian, Spain, for three-quarters of the year for our racing season. I'm in training for the Olympics.
Already, in early February, upon leaving my home in Australia for Europe, there were reports of a viral outbreak in China. But there was no imminent threat to my work or health. It seemed so far removed from my world.
Our first month of racing was underway when the rumors became daily updates, and then suddenly Italy was in a state of emergency. Races that held prestigious positions in the calendar for decades were cancelled. My professional team was one of the first to pull both the men’s and women’s squads from all competitions for two weeks. It seemed an extreme measure at the time, and many of us were sad to miss some of our favorite races while other teams were still planning to compete. But within days, those choices were taken away, as each organisation started to follow suit.
Catalonia went into lockdown not long after Italy, and the situation was finally at my doorstep. My fellow teammates living in the same town were getting anxious about wanting to return to Australia. Following a meeting with our team management, we all booked flights home. It was 9pm, and we were to leave by 10:30am the next day.
Day two: In transit. I am packing my belongings in a hurry, and leaving the apartment I call home for most of the year (which I will still be paying for while I am gone). I knew it was my choice to leave, but my emotional brain felt like I was fleeing, and while I felt rushed, I knew I had time to pack my treasured possessions, including my bike, and some rolls of toilet paper – I had heard about the panic at home! Our local taxi driver who is usually so friendly and calm was clearly stressed as he collected us from our apartments scattered throughout the town. He was at risk of being fined by the police, or even losing his job, for driving without a good enough reason. We gave him extra cash once we got to the airport. The airport was quiet and all the retailers were closed.
It was a strange transit of full planes, every passenger looking on edge and most wearing a face mask. Everyone just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. It was bizarre to have left a continent in full lockdown to arrive in a country where it felt like nothing had changed. To see many Aussies living life as usual, visiting cafes and having parties, quickly turned my reactions from surprised to feeling outraged.
Day three: Canberra. I was lucky to have my parents’ home to self-isolate, while they isolated themselves at their holiday house. One of my teammates joined me, so we were able to help each other adjust to healthy routines immediately, and to keep each other company for the recommended two weeks of quarantine.
I am in a mental state of calm and a strange version of introvert heaven. I am trying to be aware that others around me do not feel the same. I am making an effort to be more attuned to the needs of those around me. I have been calling someone different every day. My isolation mate has her own personal worries and I try to listen to her words as well as her silence, and be a sounding board for her ideas and concerns. I play devil’s advocate to talk through different scenarios, and try hard to not come across as too opinionated, argumentative, or even too cheerful. I am still learning that it’s a fine balance to let people know that their feelings are valid, while still helping them maintain perspective.
We found out today that the Olympics has been officially postponed. This announcement comes with many layers of emotion, but it is definitely the right decision for not only athletes, but for the public too. We don’t know when we will be able to return to Europe, and race again.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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