Training as an Olympian during Covid-19 (Tan Sze En)

One year ago, I was still in the States, pursuing my dream of qualifying for the Olympics in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. If you’d told then that I would eventually qualify and spend this month training for Tokyo 2020, I’d have spent all night dreaming of the amazing routines I’d be practising in the gym. 

Turns out reality is a little different. I’m training for Tokyo, alright, but from my living room in Singapore. And Tokyo 2020 is now happening in 2021. The past few months have been less a rollercoaster and more a bungee jump: plunging from the indescribable high of qualifying for Tokyo at the World Championships to the deep fear that the Olympics themselves would be cancelled, before settling into the dangling, suspended sensation of a year-long postponement to the greatest event of any athlete’s life.

Which is funny, because this is the first time in a long while that I won’t be suspended somehow. I can’t do flips or tumbles or bar routines at home. I haven’t spent a month outside the gym since 2006, when I was six years’ old. With the national gymnastics centre closed, I’ve set up a little workout space at home, and corralled my siblings into doing calisthenics with me. They’re joking that they can now say they’ve followed an Olympic training regimen (given by my coach), but we all know the most difficult part is the Olympic diet. Hopefully, we’ll all emerge from this with better abs.

This is an unbelievably difficult time for many people, and I’m lucky that my family is safe and comfortable. I remain hopeful that Singapore will support all its residents through this time, and that we overcome this crisis together. And, one year from now, I will be prouder than ever to fly our flag high in Tokyo


Tan Sze En is a female gymnast and was the second Singaporean to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. When not striking power poses, she keeps busy watching Netflix or, as she describes it to her coach, “undergoing body maintenance”. 

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  • Aarthi Venkidachalam on

    Hi Tan Sze En, I’m really inspired to continue striving forward through these tough times. In 2020, my school’s dance teams were selected to perform for Singapore’s National Day. As an average dancer, I couldn’t believe I was given this opportunity and was so excited to perform. However, the whole thing got cancelled so suddenly because of the pandemic and I was heartbroken. The worse part was I never thought that I would get such a rare opportunity to perform again. I really hope that I’ll be able to perform in the future and follow your advice to keep working efficiently and consistently despite the struggles. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and pray that you will qualify for the Olympics in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. Thanks for you motivating article! :D

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