A Paralympic Hopeful Reacts to the Delay of the 2020 Games
A Q&A With Track & Field Athlete Dani Aravich
When the Summer 2020 Games were delayed, athletes all over the world saw their dreams and plans dashed—or at least postponed. To find out how one affected athlete reacted to the news, we talked to Dani Aravich, an adaptive runner based in Salt Lake City.
While Dani “fully supports” the decision to postpone the Games, her entire life has been put on hold. Here are her thoughts on what’s next for her competition-wise and how she’s staying in shape right now, from using her ski boots as “weights” to running at odd hours on outdoor tracks.
Backcountry: Where were you when you learned that the Games would be postponed?
Dani Aravich: I was at my parents’ house in Boise, Idaho when an article was released with insider information that the Games would be postponed. Then I received an email from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee with an athlete survey asking how COVID-19 was affecting our training, and what our opinions were on how to proceed.
What was your immediate reaction to this news?
Selfishly, in the moment, I fought back tears. I knew the postponement was a possibility, but the Games were still months away. I thought: Why make the decision so soon? The next day, the official announcement was released and I broke down.
How did the delay impact your immediate plans?
After calming down, I texted my weightlifting coach and running coach, who told me I should go on a break for a couple months since all spring competitions were cancelled. It was frustrating to see all my running training this winter seem like it was for nothing.
Are you following that advice and taking a break from your training?
I decided to keep training throughout April as if I was going to compete and reevaluate from there. I am going to run some time trials to see where I am, since I won’t be able to race for quite some time.
But you can’t train the same way you were pre-pandemic, right?
It’s significantly different. I’m on my own without a coach. Track time outdoors is limited, the indoor tracks are closed, and I have to lift at home. My strength coaches sent me at-home workouts to do. Since I don’t have heavy weights at home, I’m finding creative ways to increase the load on my lifts. I add items to a bucket and use that as a weight, and even use ski boots to lift. Be creative, and do not let your house limit what you’re able to do!
Where are you training now that track time is limited?
I’m very lucky to live in a place where I can train outside. Going to the track alone the past few weeks has been a great way for me to clear my mind. I spent my winter running at the Utah Olympic Oval, but it sadly closed its doors. Now I’m running outside at the park, and finding local outdoor tracks at high schools. Many tracks are very popular during quarantine, so I would recommend trying to find a time when no one is out to get your run on!
For other athletes or people trying to stay active right now, what’s your best training advice?
Get creative! If the weather is nice where you live, take advantage and go on a run. You can also easily find at-home workouts online to cross-train. I would also highly recommend resistance bands. They are amazing for legs and glutes, but also for arm exercises. I use resistance bands to help strengthen my left arm as well.
What has been the most challenging aspect of staying in shape at home?
Establishing a routine. Our lives have drastically changed, and establishing a new regimen is difficult and requires discipline. Try to wake up at the same time everyday, eat as clean as you can (as tempting as it is to stress-eat during boring days!), and stay active.
Are you still on a training nutrition plan? Any tips for eating healthy during quarantine?
I work with a personal registered dietician and I’m on a strict meal plan. But I can’t lie and say that after I heard the news of Tokyo, I didn’t eat some Cheetos and have a few glasses of wine! Quarantine is very tough when it comes to eating healthy. We’re trying to avoid the grocery stores as much as possible, which makes it hard to get fresh foods. I’m trying to stick to my meal plan right now, but it is challenging! I’m trying to make conscious decisions every day to eat clean.
Photos by Berin Klawiter (@berinklaw)
You’re also a competitive Nordic skier and biathlete—does this situation impact your winter sports as well?
Yes—I assumed as soon as Tokyo was over, I’d be able to dedicate myself to winter sports to qualify for Beijing in 2022. Balancing the two sports this past winter was tough. Now that Tokyo is in the summer of 2021, and the winter Paralympics will be less than a year later in 2022, I’m extremely stressed about balancing the two. Ultimately, I will need to prioritize one sport. I think after Tokyo, I will end my track career to focus on Nordic skiing. I was a competitive track runner in high school, and even competed collegiately. As much as I love track, I’m excited about my future as a Nordic skier!
Has your perspective on the Games delay changed at all in the past couple weeks?
I’m trying to look at the situation positively, as many athletes are: more time to train, more time to improve. While this may be true, more training means more expenses. Training at an elite level is expensive.
Any final words for the outdoor community?
We need to think global safety right now. But, I believe we should each be allowed to have a selfish moment. Our lives are vastly changing. We should not discredit another’s situation right now, but be understanding and respectful of theirs and be allowed to be upset about our own as well.
Ultimately, we’ve lost entire seasons of popular sports, remainders of school years, and many, many jobs. But this, too, shall pass, and when it does, I intend to be ready to compete.