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Why the Australian softball workforce is already in Japan

What would you pack for a two-month worldwide journey that features the end result of your athletic goals?

“I packed a good bit of meals. Issues that I do know that I like from Australia — simply in case there are some meals selections right here that I wasn’t going to align with,” stated Tamieka Whitefield, a 22-year-old on Australia’s Olympic softball workforce. “However apart from that, as a result of we’re not going anyplace, like I simply packed like tracksuit pants, and jumpers and leggings.”

Whitefield is one in all 32 members of Crew Australia — gamers and workers — who’re in Japan over a month earlier than the Tokyo Video games are even scheduled to start out, seeking some competitors after a 12 months sequestered in a rustic with a few of the tightest restrictions on worldwide journey.

She spoke to Yahoo Sports activities from a tiny resort room in Ōta Metropolis, the place she and the workforce will spend six weeks confined to a few flooring, plus the sphere the place they’ll observe and play, till they’ll transfer into the Olympic Village on July 17. They every have particular person rooms and share a fitness center, eating room and assembly room. There’s desk tennis, and somebody introduced a Nintendo Change.

“So Mario Kart has been an absolute hit,” Whitefield stated.

Olympians on lockdown

The Australian softball workforce, often known as Aussie Spirit, qualified for what was alleged to be the 2020 Summer time Olympics at a match in China in September 2019, just some months earlier than the coronavirus pandemic compelled sports activities on to the worldwide backburner. Whitefield was taking part in in New Zealand when Australia closed its borders on March 20, 2020. She flew dwelling and, whereas she was quarantining for 2 weeks, the Olympics had been formally postponed for a 12 months.

“As quickly because it began getting actually unhealthy in Australia, we utterly shut down,” she stated. “Like each state, shut down.”

Australian softball players queue at the check-in counter prior to their departure for the Tokyo Olympics, at Sydney International Airport on May 31, 2021. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Australia’s nationwide softball workforce gamers ready to depart for Tokyo on Monday. (Photograph by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photograph by SAEED KHAN/AFP by way of Getty Photographs)

The lockdowns labored, instances throughout the nation plummeted. And in her native Queensland, specifically, restrictions had been eased besides for infrequent days-long lockdowns to mitigate outbreaks. (At its worst, there have been about 700 new coronavirus instances a day in Australia. In New York State alone, which has a couple of million fewer folks, there have been shut to twenty,000 new instances a day in January 2021.) However journey was troublesome and the workforce was unable to get collectively for a full 12 months. As an alternative, they labored out over Zoom, met nearly with members of the 2000 Olympic workforce, and centered on coaching for the psychological facet of the game.

However because the rescheduled Olympics approached, they nonetheless hadn’t performed a aggressive sport towards one other worldwide workforce because the Asia Pacific Cup in January 2020.

“We have had camps and we have performed one another, and we have finished most likely all we might in Australia,” Whitefield stated. “So we’re over right here to hopefully get some competitors and play some video games.”

Getting ready for a protracted keep in Japan

The workforce, which is absolutely vaccinated, took COVID-19 assessments earlier than flying out. Three flights from throughout Australia converged in Singapore, and collectively they flew to Tokyo. There, they had been examined once more and met by a swarm of media.

“As quickly as we walked off the airplane, there have been cameras and folks in every single place,” Whitefield stated. “I imply not even after we acquired out of customs, like as quickly as we acquired off the airplane, they had been proper there.”

The Olympics are usually not common in Japan, the place lower than 3 p.c of the inhabitants is absolutely vaccinated and instances spiked once more as just lately as mid-Could. Someplace between 50 and 80 p.c of individuals polled oppose the Olympics, that are going forward largely on the IOC’s insistence.

Within the lead as much as the pandemic, Aussie Spirit, which is used to softball video games performed in entrance of only a few, if any followers, had plans to observe with the sounds of cheers pumped over audio system to arrange them for a presumably sold-out look on the Tokyo Video games. Now, no worldwide followers or household will probably be permitted to attend, and Japan is a number of weeks away from issuing a ruling on native followers. So of their previous few months of coaching in Australia, the Spirit did one thing completely different: They practiced video games with none cheering — simply in case that was a part of the COVID-19 protocol.

“It was actually bizarre,” Whitefield stated.

When Whitefield spoke to Yahoo Sports activities, the workforce had solely been in Ōta Metropolis for 48 hours, nonetheless beneath quarantine, and hadn’t but been to the power the place they’ll practice till kicking off the Olympic Video games as the primary occasion towards host Japan. That ought to change this weekend, however they’ll nonetheless be beneath extraordinarily strict limitations, touring solely between the resort and the sphere and sporting masks any time they depart their particular person rooms.

“It would not really feel too unhealthy simply but,” Whitefield stated. “The joy that we’re lastly right here, in the meanwhile, it is fairly good.”

She nonetheless has a bunch of TV to atone for, which helps, and she or he hasn’t run out of snacks from dwelling.

“Clearly as a result of I’m Australian, I introduced some Vegemite, I introduced protein, I introduced some two-minute noodles, some Weet-bix, and a few chocolate too. Cadbury chocolate, in fact.”

Extra from Yahoo Sports activities:

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