Lockdown represented a chance to try new things for most but not Olympic hockey champion Susannah Townsend – who instead spent time rediscovering the old her.
It’s been four years since the Blackheath-born star achieved her crowning glory as part of Team GB’s victorious Rio 2016 squad but what a difference an Olympic cycle has made.
What followed Brazilian brilliance was a period of injury turmoil, with knee and ankle problems constantly flaring up, putting the 30-year-old on a downward spiral from which she lost love of the sport.
Tokyo 2020 was due to be her swansong, too, but with the coronavirus pandemic postponing the Olympic Games – and her retirement – to next year and the subsequent lockdown having allowed her time to reflect, Townsend believes the break has given her a new lease of life.
“The break has probably been the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Townsend, who is just one of more than 1,100 athletes on UK Sport’s World Class Programme, funded by the National Lottery.
“It’s enabled me to get my body back to where I need it to be and it’s given me something to look forward to.
333 days 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/N8BEaHgURO
— Susannah Townsend OLY (@stownsend7) August 23, 2020
“I’ve always said I play mostly because I love it, but over the last couple of years I wasn’t enjoying it and I struggled to get myself out of that hole.
“But, to now have an extra year means it is almost a blank canvas for me and I can go at it to enjoy myself, smile and hopefully alongside that I play some of my best hockey again.”
A chance to heal has been an unexpected benefit of time off the pitch but it’s not the only one, with the British squad afforded vital extra preparation time in their Olympic title defence.
That gold is among 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won since National Lottery funding began in 1997 but it hasn’t been smooth sailing thereon for Townsend and co.
And she’s fully aware that the task in store over the next 12 months will be just as testing as the years that have gone before.
Townsend added: “I’m under no illusions that the next year will be difficult.
“Us older guys know the difficulties, especially when it’s an Olympic year and you’re pushing pretty much to breaking point because that’s what you have to do to be successful.
“But, knowing that there’s going to be some hard times and having had the last three months, I think it’s given me a more rounded perspective. I’m now in a lot better position to cope with everything that is thrown at me.”
At her lowest points motivation was a struggle for Townsend but she found it thanks to support on social media and from those around her.
And it is because of this that she chose to try to help others struggling with the same during lockdown by portraying her struggles honestly on the same platforms.
“I remember looking at other people’s Instagram’s for motivation on tough days so I wanted to help others in the same way,” Townsend said.
“Life isn’t perfect and people should not pretend that it is on social media. Everyone, even professional athletes, have days where they are down or need help motivating themselves.”
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing The National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/stories/track-to-tokyo and #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo