COVID destroyed the 2020 Olympic Games. Last time, Rio de Janeiro hosted the world’s biggest sporting event, so of course, we would like to know how a famous, professional athlete from Brazil feels about the difficulties of 2020. That is why we asked top Brazilian handball players, one male and one female, the same questions about their 2020 experience so far. Thiagus Petrus is one of the most successful and famous players from Brazil; he has become an integral member of Europe’s leading clubs like Pick Szeged and FC Barcelona Lassa.
First of all: how are you?
I am doing quite well and very excited about the year ahead, and even more so now that we have already started to be able to play.
How do you feel about how COVID-19 forced a several-month break, which never happened in sports during your career?
It’s a very strange feeling that I can’t be playing. But the biggest feeling is that of powerlessness because it has been something bigger than all players and sports.
How can you compare this break with a long-term injury, when the players need to recover for six months, for example?
It’s similar in that I can’t play. But when you’re injured, you’re still with the team, and you can participate in more group activities. Being at home without being able to leave has been very complicated, especially psychologically. But I’ve taken it as part of a workout.
We can see there are huge differences among athletes regarding how they are handling this situation. Many athletes totally stopped playing, while other athletes could get in better shape than ever before. What do you think: what kind of personality features does a professional athlete need to emerge from COVID-19 as a winner?
Many of those who left were already planning to leave or were not at ease, and in those cases, it was best to leave or take some time off. We’ve been in a very complicated situation, and everyone reacted one way or another, and I don’t think there was a right way to get things done. It is clear that we athletes had to find ways to stay fit and be prepared to start playing again. The main feature is resilience and knowing that you have to worry about what you can control and not what you can’t control, as was the case with COVID-19. From there, everything else became easier for me, especially given the fact that I was on vacation and I did not travel to my country just because of the pandemic.
There are some coaches and sports leaders who think we don’t need to talk about the professional athlete’s mental issues in a situation like this because a professional athlete’s job is to overcome it without any problem. Do you agree?
I’m totally against it. Both for professional athletes and for normal people. I believe that if it is necessary to talk about mental health and the different ways of dealing with it. Each athlete is unique and has different battles that they face every day. The more people that think of it as normal that you have to work on the mind, the better athletes and people we will be.
What is the worst part of the Olympic games being delayed until 2021?
It hasn’t affected me that much. But for most athletes, it changes a lot, especially the issue of planning.
Is there anything good about this delay?
Our national team is going to play in the Olympic Qualification Tournament. So, with the delay, we’ll have more time to prepare for this competition, and I think that’s best for us.
The junior field is really important in sports. What do you think, how can COVID-19 affect the life of a young athlete?
It can affect young people a lot, especially those who are developing and have a lot of potential. Stopping for a long time hurts a lot and demotivates new talents in different sports.
How do you feel personally: will you come back with the same motivation to continue your career, or has something changed?
I am quite motivated for the challenges we may have this year. I’m taking care of myself and preparing quite a lot, especially psychologically, because we don’t know 100% what’s going to happen. Today, what I do is enjoy each match to the fullest and give my best every day during training. Not that I didn’t do it before, but being forced to stop has really reinforced this in me.
I think with your career and results I can ask a question like this: what do you recommend to coaches for the next few months?
Take care of your players and have a lot of passion when it comes to motivating the team. They need to be creative and help players improve individually so that the team achieves their goals.
What do you recommend to professional athletes for the next few months?
Enjoy every day of training, travel, and competition. Be nice to the fans. We must watch out for our inner circle to protect us, our team, and our opponents until we can end the pandemic.