Strange times, but Irish Paralympian Pat O'Leary has been taking it all in his stride.
Pat has been through some tough times of his own, so it will take more than a pandemic to knock him off course. The Corkman was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 18, prior to his Leaving Cert in 1991. He survived after having a bone in his left knee replaced.
But almost 20 years later, when an infection in that knee didn’t clear up, he ended up having his leg amputated. When you’ve been through an experience like that, you are ready for practically anything.
"For me there was a lot of isolation around that time, there was a lot of time in hospital, a lot of time at home, which has probably mentally fortified me the last few months. I’m nearly 10 years post amputation now, and I never look back, the best decision I ever made."
Pat O’Leary made his debut at the Rio Paralympics in 2016 and reached a final as canoeing was included at the Games for the first time. He will compete in two events in Tokyo this summer.
Now based in Galway, he’s a lecturer in the chemistry department at NUIG. He spends most of his free time training alone on the River Corrib. But this week he will compete in his first competition in 18 months. He is relishing the thought of lining up alongside the competition again.
"I pride myself on being very organised and to do everything I can when planning in advance, and this year has snookered me, in that you can’t plan too far in advance.
"You can’t set things in stone too far in advance, but we’re getting used to it as the year goes on, and I’m coming up to my first competition which is great. It will be my first to time in a year and a half to actually race other people which will be fabulous."
Our exit from the pandemic appears to be going well, but there is still a whiff of uncertainty in the air. Preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics are ongoing, but Tokyo remains under a state of emergency because of a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Organisers are confident both events will go ahead as planned, although there is widespread concern among the Japanese public. Pat O’Leary knows he and other athletes must be ready for the unexpected.
"We have to just keep going, and in the back of my mind acknowledge that if things went south, that could happen, and we’d have to walk away, and if that happens, it happens. But for now, it’s keep training, keep going, and keep focusing on it.
"And even if the Paralympics didn’t happen, our World Championships are in due in Copenhagen in September, and I think they will definitely happen, so I have something to train for. Just got to keep the head down and keep going."
No better man.