Like most daily occurrences in the world, the Tokyo Olympics was not spared by the wrath of the coronavirus pandemic.
Before COVID-19 halted most of the world's affairs, four Filipino athletes had already qualified for the Summer Games, which was supposed to be held in July. These are gymnast Carlos Yulo, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and boxers Eumir Marcial, and Irish Magno.
ESPN5 got a chance to talk to two of them, Obiena and Magno, who shared their thoughts on the postponement, the outbreak, and what they plan to do in the coming months.
'It's the real thing now'
For Obiena, the development had not yet fully sunk in yet, but believes the move was for the best.
"Lost. That's the word. I don't know how to feel about it. I mean, as an athlete, the Olympics is the biggest event to be in. And having qualified and having it postponed leaves a lot of questions like 'What am I supposed to do now?' and 'What's going to happen?'" Obiena said via phone interview.
"You've done the work and you're kind of just doing the adjustments but then again you just need to dig deep and focus. It's hard to say, that's what you're going to do. You need to focus yourself and do what it needs to be done in the upcoming Olympics again," he added.
The 24-year-old is currently in Italy, one of the hardest hit countries. Obiena described how the disease has ravaged the populace, which had stricken over 54,000 individuals, and claimed almost 6,900 lives.
"It's the real thing now, like friends of friends are getting it. It's scary because we're basically trapped here not knowing if I'll be able to train next day and not knowing how safe my environment is," recalled Obiena, who is staying in the southern city of Formia.
"To be honest, they're really, really scared. People are just not worried about the virus, but what is going to happen after, I mean it's normal for them to be [scared], because it affects everyone and they're trying to follow the rules as much as they can," he added.
However, he assured that he is still virus-free, taking necessary precautionary moves of washing his hands, keeping his distance from others, and wearing a protective mask. His provisions are also still well-stocked.
Inside his training facility, which is just 5-10 minutes from his apartment, the owners have also taken measures to prevent contamination.
"I actually feel safe when I'm inside the training center because they sanitize everything. There's only five athletes right now training so you know it's still an okay situation," furthered Obiena.
Just like in Metro Manila and other parts of the country, the city of 38,000 had basically shut down, leaving the essential frontliners to roam the streets.
Regarding his next step, Obiena said that he will be discussing the topic with coach Vitaly Petrov very soon since the rescheduled date of the Olympics has not yet been announced.
For the meantime, Obiena will participate in the upcoming pole vault season if it pushes through to maintain momentum. Contrary to easing training to not peak at the wrong time, the Filipino said that he will have to double his efforts since a much longer time to prepare was allotted.
"I think it's more intense training because you know I think we're going to go down again and build a foundation because now we have a lot of time to do it, so I don't really know what's going to be the game plan of my coach about it," mentioned the UST alumnus.
"But I'm quite sure that we're not going to unload and we're not going to peak for competitions so adjustments will be more. It's going to be a lot of work again because that's part of what we do," he added.
On the other hand, here in the country, there were no grand welcomes or any press conferences for Irish Magno, who became the first Filipina boxer ever to qualify for the Olympics.
Magno was able to dominate her Tajikistani opponent in the women's flyweight box-off of the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Amman, Jordan last Mar. 10, and clinched one of the last spots in her weight class.
But when they returned from Amman, Jordan almost two weeks ago, they immediately underwent a 14-day self-quarantine period, set to end this Friday.
With training across all Philippine Sports Commission facilities suspended, Magno opted to stay up north and rented a room in a boarding house in Baguio.
As it is her first time to join the Olympics, she expressed sadness with the postponement, but completely understood it.
"It's really sad because that's what the team has been preparing for, especially the ones that qualified. But at the same time, it's okay because we will have longer preparations since the Tokyo Olympics had already been postponed. Our priority right now is the safety and health of every athlete. If ever, I really get the decision," Magno said in Filipino.
The boxing team's training has also been suspended in light of the events but will push through once the enhanced community quarantine over Luzon subsides.
While passing time, Magno said that she is undergoing self-training in high altitude to help maintain her shape.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, and those with more severe illness might take three to six weeks to recover.