Rebecca Shorten makes most of family time after Olympics postponement

Rebecca Shorten (centre) won the pairs event with partner Rowan McKellar at the recent Great Olympic Olympic trials
Shorten (centre) is back home in Belfast after British Rowing's base had to close because of the coronavirus restrictions

Like virtually everyone throughout the globe, Belfast rower Rebecca Shorten's world has been turned upside down in recent weeks but she is making the best of the situation.

With her expected spot in the British rowing squad for the Tokyo Olympics now on hold for for up to a year, the 26-year-old is back home in Belfast spending a sustained period with her family which hasn't happened for years and may not transpire again.

She is deeply concerned by the threat coronavirus poses to all of us and our loved ones but is using the time to reconnect with her family at a slower pace than normal - even if it is only remotely on occasions.

"It's the longest time I've been here in years and probably will be over years. It's been really nice dropping food up to Papa and helping out with the other family members," Shorten told BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound Extra Time, an interview which will be broadcast on Monday.

Shorten's rowing machine was stationed in the back garden in Belfast for a few days before Tuesday's announcement of the Tokyo postponement but she admits the daily training workload had already started to drop off before the inevitable news became official.

"I changed the preparation and made it a bit more relaxed because I found it a struggle to train as soon as I got here," said Shorten, who took a major step towards sealing a spot in one of the British boats by winning the women's pairs with Rowan McKellar at the recent Olympic trials.

"Nothing had been confirmed by that stage but I knew in the back of my head that the Games couldn't have gone ahead with the way everything was going.

"The Games are not as important as what's going on.

"It was good that they (the coaches) changed the programme and made it a bit more relaxed and I didn't have as long on the horrible Ergo (rowing machine)."

'I sat in the car and just cried'

Shorten's training days on the dreaded Ergo can be as extreme as having to do 36km - 20km and 16km stints - but with no Olympics until next spring by the earliest, she is now being permitted to integrate more enjoyable pursuits such as running into a reduced programme.

The day of the postponement announcement led to a predictable whirl of emotions in her head as she processed the reality of having an even longer period of intense training in the build-up to the Games.

"Everything was going wrong that day - one thing after another," said Shorten. "I sat in the car and just cried. But then it was just a case of 'right... OK, fine, move on'.

"I've tried to look at the positives rather than the negatives. I've struggled this year with constantly getting ill so this gives me another year's training."

The boathouse at the British Rowing Centre in Berkshire
Shorten is based at the British Rowing Centre at Caversham in Berkshire

Shorten keeping in touch with GB team-mates

Shorten is using technology to keep in contact with team-mates whom she normally lives cheek by jowl with, close to their training base on the Thames at Caversham in Berkshire.

"You live in each other's pockets. You go on camps. You stay together. You train together," she said. "It's weird once you go away to not be around them.

"But we've all downloaded this app called House Party and you can just pop into people's conversations and someone did that to me and my dad last night."

For now, it is just "one day at a time" for Shorten and her aim will be to keep training ticking over until definitive word comes through from the International Olympic Committee on when the Games will be staged next year.

"Hopefully once we find out that, it will make things a lot easier," she said.

In the meantime, it is precious family time for Shorten and she is going to make the most of that.

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