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Covid-19 lockdown gave skier Brian time to reflect on his sport


Gorey’s Brian Dowling, Irish alpine masters ski racer pictured outside Gorey Community School

Gorey’s Brian Dowling, Irish alpine masters ski racer pictured outside Gorey Community School

Gorey’s Brian Dowling, Irish alpine masters ski racer pictured outside Gorey Community School

Five months on since Gorey skier Brian returned home after competing at the world masters ski racing championships in Innsbruck in Austria, uncertainty for the sport's future has become a reality.

Brian explained that as public gyms and the ski slope in Kilternan have been closed now for a number of months, he and his fellow skiers and coaches have kept up contact through technology and social media alone.

It's true that the Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for athletes and sports fans alike, having their hobbies, passions and often an important aspect of their livelihoods taken away over night.

Brian said that the time away from sport and training has given athletes time to reflect.

'It has been strange to say the least. Selfishly I'm so glad and I feel really lucky I got the chance to compete at The Games in Innsbruck and I got to fulfil my aspirations after all my training. I think several people were looking down on me making sure I got my chance.

'But when I came back from Innsbruck, I was determined that I was going to take a month off and do no skiing or gym work. I needed time to just do absolutely nothing, relax and recuperate and enjoy some family time.

'Physically, my body had taken an absolutely battering over the last three and half years but especially in the last year leading up to Innsbruck. The games themselves were very intense, so I needed to rest up and catch up.

'After the first month, I felt there was something missing. I had gone from training six days a week and I didn't know what to do.

'When you come down from such an intense workload, you're trying to find something to fill those three four hours a day where as before it was just training.

'I had started back doing light keep-fit training but unfortunately then Covid-19 hit and so all plans were off'.

Brian said that there is a lot of solidarity at the moment between athletes in all different sports, but that things will be different in ski racing when it does return.

'I remember early on speaking to someone who had retired from professional rugby. He told me not to be surprised if you find yourself feeling a little bit lost because it happens to everybody, and I did feel very strange about it.

'The racing circuit is really all up in the air, the seasonal calendar has been published but it's all provisional at this stage.

'I've had time to think about whether I was going to compete for this coming season and what level of intensity I was prepared to put into it. But I've decided to go back and race again, and the intensity is going to be decided by the guidelines laid down by the Association and what the impact this whole Covid-19 situation has but I just need to keep hammering away and hope that there is a season to race next year.

'I try to look on the bright side of it and I try to think positively all the time, I always have'.

He said that travel is something he will have to take into consideration for the next season.

'The circuit may be limited and I'll definitely have to be careful about where I go to race. I definitely won't be racing in the US, Canada or the far east, it'll be the European swing of the circuit for me but I'm reasonably confident that there is going to be something on offer.

'Our sport is outdoors, and it is high altitude. There's a reasonably easy scope to keep social distance so I would imagine that ski racing will be one of the easier sports to facilitate.

'I'm not a professional athlete, I have to hold down a 40 hour a week job, and there's no way I can go away to race in Italy for three days and then take two weeks off work, I couldn't financially afford it. That's going to be a big consideration for lots of athletes who don't have big sponsorship deals or sole athletes not part of a team, it'll be a massive part for a lot of us.

'But I proved in Innsbruck that I can mix it with the best skiers in the world, so if I just keep the faith that we are going to be racing next year'.

Although the international skiers have kept in touch, Brian is looking forward to meeting them again in person.

'During the lockdown, I've been involved in work for mental health awareness and PTSD. The skiers we're doing 25 press ups for 25 days with the British ski team to raise awareness for men and I'm involved in a few fund-raising events.

'I'm looking forward to skiing with friends in Kilternan, hopefully that'll be sometime before the end of the summer. I'm looking ahead to getting back to meeting people that have supported me over the last couple of years, just to have a chat and meet my coach and other ski people.

'We need to have a good serious chat about where we're going to go from here'.

Reflecting on the impact of Covid-19 on sport, Brian said he feels especially sorry for athletes due to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.

'I feel really sorry especially for those athletes who may have been coming to the end of their career and Tokyo was going to be their last big one. They may not have it themselves mentally, physically, financially with sponsorship to go through another year with the uncertainty'.

Gorey Guardian