20 July 2020 16:02pm By Daniel Smith Focus and trust key for Zajac and Matz during lockdown Zajac and Matz sailing at the 2019 Hempel World Cup Series Miami © Sailing Energy / World Sailing It’s only natural for teams of Olympic athletes to spend a lot of time in each other’s company – and Nacra 17 duo Thomas Zajac & Barbara Matz (AUT) were no different. But when the COVID-19 lockdown affected countries all over the world, sailors were forced to keep off the water and train apart from their team-mates – an unusual concept for the Austrian pair.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together during the last three years: summer and winter, in the gyms, in the car, in the plane, on the water,” said Zajac.
“It was a bit strange not to see Babsi every day, but we survived it!”
A period of uncertainty for Olympic athletes culminated in the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which has required all involved to adapt to this unprecedented situation.
But how would a sailor prepare, alone under lockdown conditions, for another year without knowing when they would be able to race again?
“It was not so easy because nobody knew what will happen, so we tried not to lose the goal,” Zajac continued.
“Soon there will be some Olympics – now it’s one year away.
“We had a lot of contact with the federations, we did some online lessons and this is how we stayed focused – [keeping to] a daily routine.”
“We were doing a lot of physical work at home, mainly bodyweight workouts, and we were biking a lot, running a lot,” added Matz.
“We had a lot of online meetings and we saw each other through the screen nearly every day, so it was not so much time apart!
“We can trust each other that we both have a goal to reach; we know that everyone is giving their best every day so that we can reach our goal.”
Speaking at the start of July, Zajac & Matz elaborated on their plan to head to Spain and train against other nations for the first time in months.
With the world beginning to adjust to the changes brought by the global pandemic, the Rio 2016 bronze medal winner is hopeful that it won’t be too long before he and Matz are racing once more.
“Our big goal was to go to Tokyo to train in the Olympic venue,” Zajac explained.
“We would have liked to stay there during the Olympic period, but at the moment we don’t know if we can go there. We have to think in only two-week periods.
“We spent some time in Croatia which was cool; it was our first time on the sea again.
“This weekend we’re going to Santander in Spain, to train with the Spanish, Finnish, British and Argentinians, so we’re looking forward to that.
“Then we’ll see; I hope we can do some regattas at least in September.”
In a new feature alongside Hempel, Official Coatings Partner and title parter of the Hempel World Cup Series, called “Trusting the Process,” we’ll be checking in on our Olympic sailors, finding out how they continued to train during lockdown, and how they will prepare for the rearranged Olympic Games in 2021.