Men’s lacrosse freshman Caleb Creasor practices his goalie work outside his home in Huntsville, Ontario on Mar. 22, 2020. International athletes are forced to get creative during the coronavirus pandemic as they train far away from Lehigh. (Courtesy of Caleb Creasor)

Living in a pandemic, international athletes get creative with training

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First, Lehigh moved classes online for two weeks. Then, President Donald Trump announced a 30-day travel ban on flights from most European countries. Later that day, when Lehigh altered their initial plans and shifted to remote learning for the rest of the semester, men’s basketball freshman and Romanian national Andrei Arion knew it was time to leave the country. Fast.

Arion, who stayed in the U.S. over spring break, was able to store most of his belongings in a teammate’s basement. He took only the essentials — his laptop and some clothes —and then he returned home to Romania.

While Arion said there were only about 200 coronavirus cases when he landed in Romania, the fear present in the U.S. had made its way to his native country as well. Hours after Arion arrived, Romania instituted a self-isolation order for any international traveler coming from a country with more than 500 cases. 

While not legally obliged to quarantine, Arion said it was in his and his family’s best interest to adhere to the order.

He said it felt like every minute after he got home, something would shut down, as the world began to better grasp the severity of the coronavirus.

“The situation here is not getting better,” Arion said. “Just (on March 17) we declared a national emergency. We’re trying to take as many measures as we can, (because) no health system in the world can cope with the infectivity of this disease.”

For Arion and other international athletes who quickly left Lehigh, having to train and study from home presents multiple challenges. Aside from some having to cope with time differences in regard to online classes, training so far away from Lehigh can be difficult — especially with gyms closing across the world. 

While Arion is confined to his home and is resting after the recent completion of the men’s basketball season, he said he plans on utilizing yoga apps that strength and conditioning coach Eric Markovcy sent the team, as well as running to train for the fall. He said his main outlet will be alternative methods of exercise at home.

“What we have right now is a much longer offseason,” Arion said. “It is really crucial that I prepare in these five months. People can complain that I don’t have this or that, but if you look from a different perspective, we have five months to prepare for a season, so that’s a long time.”

Michael Tahiru, a junior forward on the men’s soccer team, does a push-up at home. Fall athletes use the spring to train for their upcoming season. (Courtesy of Michael Tahiru)

A similar challenge is evident for men’s lacrosse freshman goalkeeper Caleb Creasor, who resides in Huntsville, Ontario. Creasor and his teammates had their season cut short just six games into the year, as they prepared to face Army on March 14 before spring sports were suspended by the Patriot League.

Much like the case in the U.S, Creasor said gyms, schools and businesses are closing in Canada as the number of coronavirus cases surpassed 1,100 on March 21. Creasor said his mother, a teacher, was able to drive and pick him up from school after classes were moved online. His father is an optometrist, and Creasor said he isn’t sure if his business will be able to stay open. 

Like the U.S., Canada is scaling down on large gatherings. Creasor’s friends went to a Chipotle together, and one person had to wait outside in the cold because the restaurant only allowed five people inside at once. 

Creasor said there is still snow on the ground, making it difficult to train outside. Right now, he said, he’s taking the time to focus on his online classes.

“I’ve been hitting the wall just keeping my cardio up at home, but all the gyms are closed and everything,” Creasor said. “So, as far as weight-lifting goes, I’m going to have to figure that out down the road. Right now, I’ve just been taking some time off.”

Michael Tahiru, a junior forward on the men’s soccer team, did not have his season cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. While the soccer season is played in the fall, Tahiru said they rely on the spring for the majority of their training. The spring sport cancellation was tough to accept, Tahiru said.

A native of Ghana, Tahiru has family in the U.S., so it was easier for him to stay in the country than it was to go home. Like Creasor and Arion, he said he’s going to have to get creative to train outside of Lehigh. 

“I do have trails here, so light jogging, regular pushups and crossfit exercises (help) to stay fit,” Tahiru said.

Tahiru will not have to adjust to life in his native country, he said, but he is concerned about the spread of the virus and has kept in touch with family in Ghana. 

While there are only 19 cases in Ghana currently, Tahiru said measures like social distancing have been instilled to help reduce the spread of the virus. All churches, schools and sports have been required to cease activities.

“According to my family, people are staying home as much as they can,” Tahiru said. “The streets are quiet. People are making sure they don’t go out unless it’s really necessary. Law enforcement has been really strict about it.”

For Tahiru, Creasor and Arion, adjusting to training and everyday life is something they all are acclimating to. While there is no definitive timeline for when gyms will begin to open up, Arion said creativity will be key in his training, but he’s mainly focused on staying safe right now.

“This problem goes further than sports,” Arion said. “In order to stop the spread, we have to take measures like this so the situation doesn’t get as bad as it is in Italy right now or as it was in China.”

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