This last few weeks have been anything but what Anna Hopkin had envisaged, but the same can be said for everyone during this unprecedented period of lockdown.
Swapping life as a student-athlete in America for her new home at the Loughborough National Centre has been out of the ordinary, with pretty much everything conducted via the internet. Joining Mel Marshall’s training group, Hopkin has been using video calls to get to know her new training partners, coach and support staff, as she adjusts to what, during lockdown, is slowly becoming routine.
“It’s definitely strange getting used to a new normal but I think I am coping ok – I am definitely managing to stay busy and just trying to keep fit and not worry too much about not having access to a pool – but think I am doing alright.”
So what does ‘the new normal’ look like for the rising sprint star?
“Definitely more sleep! I’m not having to get up so early, which is nice, but I’m still trying to keep a similar routine. And we have a lot of Zoom meetings! We have rehab stuff every morning with Jane and that’s capacity work; we would have quite a lot of shoulder work if we were swimming, so we have got to make sure we are getting the same work through our shoulders, and then we will usually do either a run or a bike as cardio, and we are still doing weights three times a week. We will also do some circuits on Zoom with the entire Loughborough National Centre, which is quite fun! Obviously we don’t want to do too much of one kind of exercise because we aren’t used to it and might get injured, so we’re just trying to mix it up a little bit.”
That makes it sound very planned, which her routine now is, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for Hopkin as when the COVID-19 pandemic went truly global there was a last minute dash to get back home to the UK.
“Once NCAAs were cancelled in the US it was kind of important to get back, because at that point the British Champs were still on so I obviously had to get back to the UK to make sure if they were going to be on, that I could get there! I had two and a bit days before my flight to pack up everything and say goodbye to everyone and get on the flight home. It was a bit stressful for those few days but I am glad I am back now and not stuck in America.”
That trip back across the Atlantic marks a big change for Anna, who will now link up with her new coach, Mel Marshall, and train out of the Loughborough National Centre for the foreseeable future. So how did that decision come about and how excited is she to get stuck in-in Loughborough?
“For the past year that’s always been a definite plan for after Arkansas. Neil and Mel have spoken a little bit, and I have worked with Mel a lot already at Commonwealth Games, Europeans and Worlds, so we have got to know each other really well and I enjoy working with her and I think her and Neil have quite a similar coaching style. I definitely think it’s absolutely the right move for me and its nice being I will only be an hour or so from home. I’m excited to get back in the pool so I can get started with the group and everything a bit more.”
In the meantime she has to use the wonders of technology to link up with her new training partners.
“Everyone has actually been so accommodating and welcoming and I have had all sorts of calls with all the support staff at Loughborough, so they are getting to know me and offering me what I need and kind of helping me know what’s available to me. I am enjoying getting to know everyone in Mel’s group and in the whole Loughborough National Centre; I obviously know quite a lot of them already so it’s quite an easy transition, but it’s nice to feel part of the group a bit more now.”
With no definite end point for the current lockdown, how has Hopkin coped mentally?
“Obviously the goal is Tokyo next year now, so it’s actually a bit of a relief for everyone to have it announced as a year later, because if they were just going to delay it a couple of months I just wouldn’t be prepared the way I wanted. I am seeing it as it will be good to have that time to get used to being in Mel’s group and building with her on new things she’s got for me. I think I can be in a better place next year than I was this year, so I think it’s a positive really for me.”
Whilst on the sport side of things the freestyler is staying positive and focused, when Anna thinks about the coronavirus, which for a lot of people still remains an invisible killer, there is a definite personal link, as she explains:
“Two of my best friends, who I went to high school with and so I’ve known them for ages, are directly involved. One’s a Doctor and one’s a Midwife – they are quite newly qualified and working really hard on the frontline. My friend who is a Doctor, she is on the Respiratory Ward and she is right in the centre of it all and obviously having all the issues you hear about on the news with the PPE and not having enough masks and gowns etc. I am hearing it first hand from her, pretty much everything that is going on.
“My other friend, she is Midwife and has a lot going with keeping expectant mothers safe and making sure they are being tested and being cared for the way they need to, to make sure they and the baby are safe. It’s quite scary having two really close friends working so closely with the virus. It’s strange they are working so hard but a lot of us are just at home – but almost that’s more important for us not to do anything and stay at home.”
For now, Hopkin will stay put at home and try to stay as fit and healthy as possible, knowing it won’t be too long before she’s back in the pool and chasing her dreams.