Athletes stopped in their tracks

Riley Gould, Indiana Cooper, Leyla Liaktos, Jack Gould and Jamie Gould after finding out the Australian Track and Field Championships had been cancelled.

Imagine training for months, even years; doing hill runs, distance runs, sprints and countless other activities in anticipation for one single event; only to find out that the one event you had prepared for had been cancelled at the last minute.

Well for Jack and Riley Gould, Indiana Cooper and Leyla Liakatos, that was their world after the NSW State Athletics Championships, scheduled for March 14 and 15, and the Australian Track and Field Championships, scheduled for March 21-29, were cancelled.

All four athletes, who are trained by Jamie Gould in Batlow, had already qualified for Nationals in Sydney and will now be left wondering what might have been.

The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that is sweeping the nation, meant that these feature athletic events, which were both meant to be held in Sydney, had no hope of going ahead with the Australian government banning non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people.

Jamie Gould, who has spent countless hours working with all four athletes, explained how he felt after finding out the meets had been cancelled.

“I was gutted, gutted for these kids who have put in more than 12 months of hard work to get there,” Gould said.

“Some of them, such as Riley (Gould), have put in six years of work to get that qualifying time to make nationals.

“These kids work all year, every year to make these events and it’s just devastating.”

Gould and his four athletes were either in Sydney, or on their way to compete in Sydney, when they found out the NSW State Athletics Championships was cancelled last weekend.

“We were deflated,” Gould said.

“We had planned to stay the night, the kids were ready to compete and it was tough to deal with once we found out.”

The Batlow-based trainer explained that once they found out that both events had been cancelled, his focus soon turned to the mental health of his young athletes.

“I have made sure I’ve continually talked to them,” Gould said. 

“I have just been talking to them about how they are feeling and being considerate of their mental health because it can be a really tough gig.”

Gould was disappointed that during the current disease outbreak, the mental health of his young athletes had been overlooked, especially for those athletes who compete at the highest level and whom are now coming to terms with a massive change in their plans.

“Through this whole coronavirus situation, nobody has been talking about the mental health of young athletes,” Gould said.

“It’s really been neglected; it’s easy to say you can’t do this, and can’t do that but nobody has stopped to ask if these kids are okay.”

Jack Gould, who has finished fourth at the two previous Australian Track and Field Championships in the 800m, was feeling pretty ordinary after the cancellation of the 2020 State and National athletics events.

“It was a bummer to be honest. I really wanted to get my first podium finish,” Gould said.

“I was really disappointed and just feeling down in the dumps.”

Gould, who is in year 12 at Batlow Technology School, was eyeing Australian honours if he performed well at nationals and admitted it was tough to lose out on a unique opportunity to represent his country.

“This year I had a good chance of representing Australia for the under 18s at the Oceanic Games,” Gould said.

“To say I am gutted is a bit of an understatement.”

Gundagai athlete Indiana Cooper was another competitor left devastated after the decision to cancel state and national events.

“I was meant to compete in six events at state and four events at nationals and at first I was pretty devastated,” Cooper said.

The young star further explained that the current ban on competitions meant she could now focus on NSW State All Schools and Australian All Schools later in the year. 

“It now means I can spend more time training towards State All Schools in Sydney and Nationals in Tasmania,” Cooper said.

In the mean time, Indiana Cooper, Jack and Riley Gould and Leyla Liakatos will now focus their attention on winter training with the plan to compete in school athletic events later in 2020.