2021 Olympics: 'Our dream must wait another year but the right decision' - Ireland captain Katie Mullan

By Katie MullanIreland captain
Katie Mullan
Mullan and her Ireland team-mates must reappraise their Olympic preparations

We now know when the Olympic Games will take place.

Our dream will have to wait another year to be fulfilled but at least now we can see light at the end of the tunnel and begin to plan ahead after the uncertainty of the past few weeks.

Reflecting over the past number days I know it was the right decision to postpone the Olympics. I guess we were probably in denial, thinking the Games could still go ahead despite all the rumours and stories we were reading.

It was when Canada and Australia announced they wouldn't send their athletes that things changed and postponement seemed likely.

With the spread of Coronavirus the health of the athletes and those family and friends hoping to attend the Olympics needed to be the top priority.

It really comes down to the unknown with this virus and the risks involved with the Games so close.

Training in isolation 'not normal'

Being totally honest the way we were training in isolation and trying to be international athletes is not how we want to or how anyone should be preparing for an Olympic games. It's not normal not to be on the pitch with your team-mates a couple of months out.

So yes, it is the right decision of course, but that's not to say there isn't a huge feeling of disappointment.

When I heard the news I was actually on the phone with my team mate Deirdre Duke and obviously my conversation was so exciting that she watching TV at the same time and it came up on the news.

I tried to tell her that perhaps that wasn't an official announcement and maybe it was just speculation but she seemed pretty certain and it didn't take me long to see the news for myself.

Coincidentally we had an online team meeting prearranged shortly after the announcement so that went ahead and across the board we were all gutted.

Katie Mullan
Ireland qualified for the Olympics by beating Canada in a play-off

A lot of the girls had countdown clocks on their phones and it was 103 days until the plane was to take off for Tokyo so what seemed so close suddenly seemed so far away.

We were all deflated - we've put life on hold for the Games so understandably it's taken a few days for the news to settle in with the girls.

We love the team environment so the last few weeks have been tough being apart and always training by ourselves.

Now with the blow of the Games being postponed the motivation levels really did plummet and for me personally I had done a gym session on Tuesday before hearing the news and it was pretty good.

Whereas on Wednesday I had to go out to do a running session and it was chalk and cheese.

When you know the Olympics are so close it drives you on, you find an extra gear in sessions but I definitely found that after the announcement was made there was a little bit of life sucked out of me when I was out training.

Time to refocus

But now we know when the Games are going to take place and it's time too refocus and map out the next 16 months.

Life does go on hold when you talk about qualification and then preparing to play at an Olympics.

When you're 19 or 20 it's maybe a little different than if you're married, putting a job opportunity on hold or even thinking of retirement post-Games.

An additional 12 months is a decent chunk of time to put life outside of hockey on hold for. Some players may have decisions to make around this and they need time and support to rearrange things whatever that may be.

It's difficult for every player but I think this has hit the more experienced players harder.

However we qualified in November and have done all in our power to prepare for a Games in July but it was still a relatively short run-in so now we have to look at this extra prep time as an opportunity.

As we always do we will give this everything we've got. We said we were going to go to the Olympics to do something special, to fight for a medal and now we have an even better chance to do that.

Katie Mullan was talking to BBC Sport NI's Nigel Ringland.

Top Stories

Also in NI Sport