Finding a “new normal” amidst COVID-19

Derek Drouin is a Canadian track and field athlete who competes in the high jump. He is the reigning Olympic Champion, having won gold in 2016, and was the 2015 World Champion. He also won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2015 Pan American Games, and won a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2013 World Championships. Derek shares how he’s managing after the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.


As an athlete, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to deal with adversity. Heading into the 2016 Rio Olympics I wrote on the very first page of my training journal “The path may change but the destination remains the same.” This quote was meant to be just one of many I found inspirational as I pursued my athletic goals. This particular quote, however, proved to be something of a staple in my daily reading during the months and weeks leading into The Games when I was constantly having to re-route my path after being struck by injuries and forced to pull-out of crucial competition after competition.

The thing I find most useful in such situations is to simply accept my reality. Rather than denying anything was wrong, I sat down with my support team, we scratched out our original plans and together we found an alternate route that would lead me to Rio.

If I had continued down a tumultuous road, littered with caution signs and red flags pretending everything was fine eventually I would have hit a roadblock and been forced to turn right back around, and I probably would have been a whole lot worse for wear.

These past few weeks have been filled with more roadblocks, detours, and outright closures than I have ever had to deal with in such a short period of time. I’ve done my very best to create a new daily routine to match as closely to my old routine as possible — a new normal. Though like many of you, I’m sure, my life has felt like a glitching GPS repeatedly stating “Re-calculating…. re-calculating… re-calculating” on loop. So everyday I wake up and see the way my new routine has been affected by today’s updates to protocol concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and I make a new plan for that day.

Right now, it’s difficult to know what tomorrow has in store, let alone the next few weeks or months, so I’m setting short term goals. I ask myself, “what can I do today that will get me closer to reaching my ultimate goal?” This is a question my Sport Psychologist used to ask me when I was feeling helpless as an injured athlete three months before the Rio Olympics- the biggest goal I had ever set for myself. In times of turmoil, a target that’s three months away can often be hard to see through the fog, but day-to-day goals are small, attainable, and really add up over time. He would ask me at the end of the day, “Did you win the day today?” Which meant, did you get better today? Did you get closer to your destination? Or did you allow yourself to become a victim of your circumstances?

Regardless of your profession or place in life, we all have goals and we all have milestones we would like to reach. It would be foolish and irrational to try to march on through this pandemic as if nothing had happened at all. Adjustments to everybody’s daily life need to be made and every single person has been affected in some way or another by COVID-19. For me, my goal is to compete at the Tokyo Olympics — that hasn’t changed but my path to get there certainly has. My GPS says my Estimated Time of Arrival is almost a full 365 days later than originally planned. That’s a destination that difficult to see through this fog and that’s okay, because right now I’m focused on winning today.

Photography credit: Matt Slocum