Coronavirus battle: England women’s team captain Heather Knight among sportspersons on frontline
Not just doctors, this COVID-19 outbreak has necessitated the deployment of an unprecedented number of health personnel in the form of nurses and voluntary caregivers across the world. While most major sport events have been cancelled or postponed, not all athletes are recuperating in their homes.
Take the captain of England women’s cricket team, Heather Knight for example, who has signed up to be a National Health Service (NHS) volunteer to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. “I signed up to the NHS’s volunteer scheme as I have a lot of free time on my hands and I want to help as much as I can,” Knight wrote in her column for the BBC. “My brother and his partner are doctors, and I have a few friends who work in the NHS, so I know how hard they are working and how difficult it is for everyone.”
Kim Daybell, a British Paralympic table tennis player who completed his medical degree in 2018, too is on the frontline as an NHS doctor. “I was coming to the end of my F1 year and due to be finishing to train full-time,” the 27-year-old told paralympic.org. “But they asked if I would come on a full-time rota, which I have started doing this week. I’m finishing surgery and will be a medical SHO (senior house officer) managing COVID patients.”
Four-time Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser, in the final year of medical school after retiring in 2017, is now a permanent fixture at Toronto’s emergency rooms. Two-time 400m hurdles champion Jana Pittman, who recently qualified as a doctor, took to Instagram a week back and asked Australians to maintain social distancing as she does her bit at hospitals. Here’s looking at a few other athletes trying to make a difference during this difficult time.
A qualified nurse in Perth, Australia’s hockey goalkeeper Rachael Lynch has had a long career dealing with neuro-rehabilitation, strokes and multiple sclerosis at the Fiona Stanley Hospital. But now she has been redeployed in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of returning to her Melbourne home, the 2019 FIH Goalkeeper of the Year stayed back in Perth to assist the afflicted. “We had the opportunity to go home from the program and be with our families, but when I found out Tokyo was moved to 2021, honestly, all I was thinking about was trying to get into the hospital. I applied to work at the COVID-19 assessment centre and increase my hours from one to three days per week,” Lynch was quoted as saying by olympics.com.au.
By 26, Dutch goalkeeping ace Joyce Sombroek had ticked all the relevant boxes in hockey. The FIH Hockey Stars Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014 and 2015, Sombroek was part of the Netherlands team that won the European championship in 2011, the 2012 Olympics in London, a world champion in 2014 and a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. After the Rio Games, Sombroek completed her medical studies and is now working in Aalsmeer, a town located 13 km south-west of Amsterdam, where she is currently checking suspected patients while wearing a protective suit. And if all goes well, Sombroek should be at Tokyo next year as a doctor at the ‘TeamNL Tokyo Center’.
When she is not wearing the judogi, Argentina’s reigning Olympic judo champion (48kg) Paula Pareto works as an orthopaedic doctor at the San Isidro Hospital, just north of Buenos Aires. After spending two weeks in self-isolation for participating in the Yekaterinburg Grand Slam, Pareto returned to duty as part of the health team working on the frontline and in the face of the outbreak. She quoted Winston Churchill in her post on the day she returned to work: “We are the masters of our fate. The task which has been set us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond our endurance. As long as we have faith in our cause and an unconquerable willpower, victory will be within our grasp.”
Australian sprint kayaker Jo Brigden-Jones competed at the 2012 London Olympics but missed out on the next Games in Rio. However, she utilised that time to kickstart a career as a paramedic for New South Wales Ambulances. She again made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics and was instructed to reach the Gold Coast for training. But the postponement meant she is now working full time as a paramedic.
Scottish curling champion Vicky Wright was all set to compete at the World Curling Championships in Canada, when it was cancelled because of the outbreak. The tournament was set to be a turning point of her curling career after Wright had turned to the sport full-time last July in a bid to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. For now though, the 26-year-old has returned to being a nurse at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital near Falkirk. She told British Curling: “Both the NHS and British Curling enabled me to do one shift a week throughout this season. It was something I really enjoyed and I didn’t want to lose my skills and it was good to have something else other than just curling, it really kept me grounded.”