- Samantha Achterberg
- US pentathlete Samantha Achterberg, 28, has plans to compete in the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but her training has radically shifted because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
- In the pentathlon, Achterberg and other competitors take part in five events: fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, laser pistol shooting, and cross country running.
- Colorado, where Achterberg currently lives, is under a shelter-in-place order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and Achterberg can’t go to the gym or pool to train.
- She has since built a laser shooting range in her driveway, is fencing against a target, and doing exercises that mimic swimming.
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Until then, she’ll continue to train – but thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, her training schedule isn’t what it used to be. Achterberg, and many athletes like her, have had to come up with unconventional ways to prepare for their sports.
The pentathlon is an Olympic sport that consists of five events: fencing, a 200-meter freestyle swim, equestrian show jumping, and laser pistol shooting combined with a 3,200-meter cross country run. The sport has its roots in ancient Greek athletics and requires a combination of agility, endurance, and precision.
Achterberg, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had been honing all three in preparation for her Olympic debut. Then on March 25, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a stay-at-home order for residents, aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Five days later, the Olympics were officially postponed until July 2021.
“I was so high stress, high strung. I was almost trying to get around the system, of like, ‘Oh this place is closed, well maybe this place is still open,'” she told Insider of trying to still train when COVID-19 started spreading in the US. “My routine was completely thrown out of whack.”
Now she’s avoiding gyms and is instead training at home, where she’s created a small workout facility in her garage and a shooting range in her driveway.
So how do you practice swimming when you don’t have access to a pool? Achterberg says she’s doing at-home exercises that mimic the same motions. She can’t practice fencing with an opponent, so she set up a target with a tennis ball and is practicing footwork in her garage. She’s still running – while social distancing – where she lives and has set up a shooting range in her driveway so she can practice target shooting with a laser pistol. And luckily, she’s still able to visit her horse to train for the equestrian portion of her competitions.
- Samantha Achterberg
For extra variety, she’s training on a road bike and going for long walks.
Though the Olympics have been postponed to July 2021, Achterberg is still focused on being in her top shape for the games.
“Things are so different,” she said of life post-coronavirus outbreak. “I’m grateful I’m going to have the opportunity to compete, and I just have to look at it as an opportunity for me to be able to train harder.”
For her own mental health, she’s been trying to maintain a daily routine, and even launched a YouTube channel to stay in touch with friends, family, and fans. She’s also journaling regularly.
“I can be in control of how I schedule out my week, what workouts I want to implement. And I think once I kind of grasped that, it was like, ‘OK, I don’t have control, but I can have control over this certain aspect,'” she said. “And the uncertainty is hard. I think all of us can relate to that. We don’t know that things have been changing weekly. Things have been changing daily.”
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