With all Grand Valley State University fall sports being put on hold this year, some international athletes are facing another set of challenges brought on by the Coronavirus. Senior Oscar Saura-Armengol is heading into his last year at GVSU, and there is a lot up in the air about whether there will be a swim season at all. Practicing, communicating with head coach Andy Boyce, and flying back and forth between Spain and the U..S has finally brought Saura back to campus. After quarantine in mid-March of 2020, he’s ready to get back in the pool.
The travel aspect of being an international athlete is hard enough as it is, and on top of the stress that comes with being far away from home and the cost of flights, Saura-Armengol had an especially difficult time.
“Being international, my parents had to spend lots of money changing my flights over and over again as so many of them were getting canceled constantly,” said Saura-Armengol. “It also looks like we won’t even have face-to-face classes this year, which is unfortunate as it is my last one here.”
On top of very few in-person classes being offered this semester, Saura-Armengol hasn’t been able to get in a pool yet either. The lost time that the GVSU swim team usually spends practicing and training over the summer has yet to be made up once the pools open in the U.S. For now, the swimmers are on their own to maintain their stamina and train as best they can without their coaches or teammates.
“After a couple of months back in Spain, pools opened and I could practice with my team from back there,” said Saura-Armengol. “As far as I know pools aren’t open in the U.S. yet and we are not sure on when they are going to open. After taking a couple of weeks away from swimming and working out (the two weeks of quarantine that I did here in the US) since last summer, I will get back to exercising the first day of class.”
Saura-Armengol has actually had an advantage over his teammates from the U.S. since he was able to practice back home. Boyce encouraged his swimmers to train in safe places where there wouldn’t be many people, prioritizing their health over any concerns about their practice schedule. Even so, Saura-Armengol and his teammates are still missing their sport.
“It feels bad as competing is one of the things that I enjoy the most about swimming,” said Saura-Armengol. This is my last year and it feels like it has been taken away from me without me being able to do anything. Although it is frustrating and it will be hard to practice without a short-term objective, I do understand that it is a prevention measure, so I can’t complain much.”
Without any competitions or tournaments to train for and look forward to, student-athletes are finding ways to stay motivated despite the unfortunate circumstances they’ll have to adapt to. Saura-Armengol and his teammates are hopeful that their season will pick back up soon with a sense of normalcy so that they can get back in the game and fulfill their last season together.