Olympic champion Puig finding new 'normal' with Games delay

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Women’s Singles Gold Medal Match


By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – With the tennis calendar paused and the Tokyo Games postponed to 2021, Olympic champion Monica Puig finds herself having to navigate a longer runway to her title defence and the long hours of quarantine felt by many communities across the globe.

“The stress levels are always going to be much higher but thankfully I’m just trying to live my normal routine within the fact that it’s not really normal,” Puig told Reuters. “I’m trying to find ways to stay active, stay happy and kind of have a positive outlook on things.”

Puig fought her way to the upset of her career in Rio in 2016, claiming Puerto Rico’s first-ever Olympic gold against German Angelique Kerber, a favourite who had claimed victory at the Australian Open months earlier.

Coming back from elbow surgery late last year that sidelined her from the Australian Open, the 26-year-old said she supported the IOC’s decision to delay this year’s Games in Tokyo amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s very hard right now to be a normal person right now with everything that’s going on,” she said. “Especially in a lot of these hard-hit places.

“There’s athletes all over the world in really badly affected places that cannot train.”

She keeps busy with her two Pomskys – Pomeranian-husky mixed breed – who until now she did not entirely realize “how annoying they are sometimes.”

“I think if I bring a third dog to the house I’m going to be kicked out myself,” said Puig, who added that she has drawn fitness inspiration from fellow tennis players like Christina McHale, whom she recently spotted on social media doing deadlifts with paint cans.

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“Trying to see what other athletes are up to – I’ve seen some people getting very creative with their home workouts, doing different things when you don’t have dumbbells,” she added.

The tennis community was quick to embrace the #TennisAtHome hashtag on social media, as stay-at-home guidelines were introduced in communities worldwide.

Swiss great Roger Federer posted a video of himself on Twitter practising trick shots alone in the snow. Retired pro Flavia Pennetta, who won the U.S. Open in 2015, hit some balls with her husband, 11th-ranked Fabio Fognini, using a clothing rack as a makeshift net.

“People are being very responsible in light of the situation, when we really just want to flatten the curve,” Puig said.

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