Athletes on edge
With over 443,000 cases, Mexico has been one of the countries hardest-hit by the coronavirus. Its death toll exceeds 48,000, the third-highest in the world following the US and Brazil.
Amid this grim reality, the country's para table tennis team has been trying to continue preparing for next year's Games. With the national Olympic and Paralympic training centers closed for the past five months, they have been making do with 30-minute online training sessions every weekday.
For first-time Paralympian Victor Reyes, bringing a medal back to Mexico has been a lifelong dream.
But stay-at-home measures mean he doesn't have access to a table, training equipment or in-person coaching. He has been trying to stay sharp with resistance training and by watching videos of other players.
He admits he is feeling stressed, and that he sometimes wonders if all the time and money he spent has been a waste.
"The return of normal training here is going to be delayed compared to other countries," he says. "I'm very worried about what's happening in Mexico."
For teammate Claudia Perez, the postponement raises another problem. She suffers from a progressive rheumatic condition and has no idea whether she will be able to maintain her strength for next year.
She says she's trying to stay ready by rallying against a wall, running inside, and maintaining a healthy diet. But she says stress is unavoidable, and she's worried her skills are slipping because she's unable to practice at a table. But she is trying to stay upbeat.
"When I start feeling sad and think that the pain might get worse, I always try to focus on the positive," she says.
Japanese volunteer coach
For retired middle school teacher Ito Yushin, who coached Reyes and Perez for over a year as a Japanese government-sponsored volunteer, it is difficult to hear what his athletes are going through after all their hard work.
Ito says he saw firsthand the physical, economic, and psychological barriers that they faced as they competed to earn places at the Games.
"It breaks my heart that I'm unable to help them right now," he says. "I want to bring them equipment. I know how hard they've worked for Tokyo."
Keeping the faith
For Reyes and Perez, Ito's encouragement is helping them stay positive.
"I remember we hugged each other and almost cried when I was chosen as a representative for the country in 2019," Reyes says. "I want to see him in Tokyo because he is the person who helped me come this far."
He says he can't help feeling powerless in his current situation, but he will still keep working hard.
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"I want Ito to see how my overall game, especially my forehand, has improved," Perez says. "I want him to see me playing my best in Tokyo."
The one-year postponement has been a huge setback for these athletes who were on the cusp of achieving their lifelong dreams. But they are holding out hope that continued hard work and determination may yet give them the chance to represent their country in Tokyo.