Wang Shun competes during the men’s 200m medley final of FINA Champions Swim Series 2020 in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong province, Jan 14, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

HANGZHOU, China – Having been training behind closed doors for half a year, Rio 200m individual medley bronze medalist Wang Shun is itching to return to competition, with his eyes set on this month’s National Championships.

“Life is really boring here,” said Wang, who has been training at the National Aquatic Training Center in Qiandaohu, Hangzhou with the Zhejiang provincial team since March. “When I went for a walk one evening, I saw the lights of the gym were all on and girls were there running while some boys were working on their core strength. This was unthinkable when we had a day off before the pandemic.”

Wang’s coach Zhu Zhigen, who is also in charge of the Zhejiang team, acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak was mentally challenging for athletes.

“Living and training here every day, shut out from the outside world, the athletes were in low spirits. There was also a potential crisis because it was hard for them to fully mobilize themselves, so their training efficiency and their self-discipline were affected,” he said, adding that public attention might help top athletes keep their motivation up.

“Elite athletes like Xu Jiayu, Ye Shiwen and Wang Shun have already reached a high level. They set goals for themselves, and the attention from media and the public encourages them. Their desire to win and to fight at the Tokyo Olympics propels them forward.”

But before the postponed Tokyo Games begins, Wang needs to test himself in his first competition of the COVID-19-disrupted season at the National Championships starting on September 26.

“Since 2010, I have never gone without competing for such a long time, so this represents a precious chance,” said the 2016 world champion. “It’s important to recover my form step by step.”

“I will work closely with my coach under an adjusted plan, trying to make progress through every competition,” Wang said of his future plans. “And save my best for Tokyo.”