Triathlon Canada’s high performance director, Eugene Liang, has been a busy man over the past few days as the world reels from the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Triathlon Magazine Canada: I guess my first question is how are you doing? You were in Australia for the world cup – have you had to isolate since you got back?
I am doing well. Busy and obviously working to navigate all of the major changes that have happened over the past week.
Yes, I was in Australia over the Mooloolaba World Cup weekend when our federal government and many other governments started to implement major travel advisories. I have been in self isolation as per the provincial and federal guidelines since arriving. I am in a small studio suite and will be able to go home this weekend.
What does all this mean for the Canadian team, or do you even know at this point?
As noted by COC and CPC’s position yesterday, we are all advocating for a postponement. How that looks is still to be decided by the powers that be, but it provides a time now for Canadian athletes to prioritize their own health and the health of the greater community. As for the Olympic and Paralympic teams, we will need to wait and see how world progresses through this as that is the number one priority. With that said, we will work with COC and CPC to determine what is the best course of action over the next few months. These actions will be determined by the global situation, IOC’s and IPC’s ultimate decision and the ITU’s response to all of this.
It looks like the Games will be postponed until next year (based on the latest from Dick Pound) – I am guessing that poses some particular challenges for you as you try to both keep up with all the changes, then plan for the Games a year later. What do you forsee as the most difficult things you’ll have to work through?
If the games are postponed till next year the challenges will really be around how the qualification system will be adapted by the IOC/IPC and the ITU. Currently we have no idea how that will pan out. As for planning, we have had a very well thought out and executed plan prior to 2020. It was tested at the staging event last year for both the Paralympic and Olympic teams. Those plans won’t change and are very well organized. We just need to move them accordingly to the dates. Obviously we have contingency plans and will work to continually to adapt with the news coming in.
How does all this affect funding for the national team?
Funding will be determined by the federal government and our stakeholders. I trust they will make the most appropriate decisions in light of all the challenges facing every sector of our population.
What are you telling athletes they should be doing right now?
The message to the athletes is that the COC/CPC position was extremely difficult to make, but made in best interest of the global community. The current situation transcends sport and we have to ensure we do what is best for the community.
I have also communicated that Triathlon Canada has been rebuilding for the past three to four years. Many of our athletes are younger than their international competitors. With that, this pause in the Olympic cycle can benefit them as they continue to refine their craft. If they settle down, focus and refocus their goals to 2021/2022, they will actually come out of this with even more competitiveness.
I have addressed the coaching community to focus on addressing the soft skills required to be an elite international athlete. This situation affords us time and space that a normal competitive season may not to really hone in on skills development outside of just swim bike and run. I believe there is opportunity in any situation. One just needs to reframe it.
In terms of direct guidelines regarding health and safety, we have deferred to the experts at the provincial and federal levels.