As a lot of her rivals spent their days getting ready for the Olympics, Joan Poh spent a lot of the previous 12 months working lengthy shifts at a Singapore hospital.
Ms. Poh, a 30-year-old rower who will symbolize Singapore at the Tokyo Games, had been coaching and competing full time. But she put that on maintain in April of final 12 months when she returned to her job as a nurse after the authorities put out a name for frontline medical reinforcements.
“In a time of pandemic, going back to work felt like a calling,” she mentioned. “When I’m at work, I’m 100 percent a nurse. When I’m training, I’m 100 percent a rower. It’s always about finding that balance and making it work.”
After resuming eight- to 10-hour hospital shifts in the renal unit at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Ms. Poh sought methods to proceed to coach. She squeezed in exercises earlier than and after work, typically skipping meals. To make up for misplaced time, she would spend her total weekend on the water.
Though Ms. Poh didn’t work in a Covid ward, she was one in every of a handful of specifically skilled dialysis nurses at the hospital. She usually needed to deal with sufferers suspected of getting the coronavirus and feared she would possibly contract it herself.
Ms. Poh will even must be on guard in opposition to the virus at this 12 months’s Games, that are not like some other as organizers attempt to decrease the threat of transmission. Spectators can be barred from most occasions, and athletes are discouraged from giving hugs, high-fives and handshakes. Out of about 20,000 individuals touring to Japan for the Games, dozens have examined optimistic for the virus, together with three individuals inside the athletes’ village.
Ms. Poh returned to her job as a nurse final 12 months after the Singapore authorities put out a name for frontline medical reinforcements amid the pandemic.Credit…Tan Tock Seng Hospital
But as a nurse, Ms. Poh plans to take precautions. Her supervisor, Koh Yu Han, who’s with Ms. Poh in Tokyo, mentioned that regardless of attracting stares, they each make some extent of wiping down gear and tables. They carry their backpacks always to keep away from placing them down and turning into contaminated. When touring to a qualifying race in Tokyo in May, Ms. Koh mentioned, she and Ms. Poh had been the solely passengers on a bus stuffed with athletes to sanitize their seats with alcohol.
Just 23 athletes will symbolize Singapore at the Olympics this 12 months, and Ms. Poh is the solely feminine rower. She is barely the second Singaporean rower to achieve the Olympics, putting 12th in the qualifying regatta.
Her occasion, girls’s single sculls, will happen on Friday.
Ms. Poh didn’t first get into a ship till she was a teen, however shortly fell in love with being on the water. Her mother and father couldn’t afford sports activities leagues or skilled teaching, however she nonetheless discovered methods to follow.
She joined a dragon boat crew when she was 17, honing her paddling expertise on a standard lengthy boat earlier than studying how you can sail and row a scull. In 2019, she took an prolonged go away from her hospital job as a way to practice and compete full time in Australia.
The previous 12 months, splitting time between the fitness center and the hospital, she mentioned, solely elevated her drive.
“I understood from when I was young that sport is a luxury,” she mentioned. “To be able to pursue your dream is a luxury. And therefore, if you can, then you must.”