The past few weeks have been a challenge both mentally and physically for many people after the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK.

But what is life like for elite athletes who have spent months training for national and international competitions – only to suddenly feel like all their hard work has been in vain?

Cameron Park is just 22 years old and is currently studying Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Sunderland. He is also one of the UK’s leading young Taekwondo champions.

For the past 10 years, the student has been training every day, honing his fighting skills in preparation for national and worldwide competition. It’s a schedule which requires discipline and hard work.

This dedication has seen him placed in the top 10 at two European Championships and led to his entire focus being set on this month’s World championships, due to be held in Denmark.

However, the event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, with lockdown now in place, the situation has left Cameron, and elite athletes like him, facing unique challenges in terms of training and mental wellbeing.

The student, who is from Durham and a former pupil at The Academy at Shotton Hall, says the crisis has left him with several challenges.

He said: “I cannot afford to sit around each day, otherwise my performance as an athlete will massively decrease, but I work within government guidelines in terms of training.

“I’m out running each day for the permitted time and then doing online sessions with Chris Curtis who is my strength and conditioning coach.

“Mentally, it took a toll on me as I do not know when the next time I will compete is. So therefore I’m doing everything I can to maintain my ability as an elite athlete and be prepared for when I do return to competition/full training.”

Cameron had been using the University’s CitySpace building for training purposes but with the facility now closed, he has had to diversify.

He said: “Without any facilities to access, I’m thinking outside the box along with Chris Curtis to maximise all my exercises along with the equipment I have at home. Luckily, I have equipment here in which I can get a lot of use from.”

Due to training with the GB team being cancelled, Cameron is now having to go back to basics, training in his back garden on his punch bag like he did when he was young.

Cameron added: “Nutrition was a big thing at the start when everybody was panic buying, as I need to maintain a good balanced diet. Thankfully, my mam is especially good at preparing all of this to keep me properly fed.

“As an elite athlete, I feel like my mental strength and thought processing is greatly helping me each day to focus on the future and hopefully we are getting one step closer to this pandemic finishing. Without the background I have, I feel current-life would be much harder to cope with.

“In terms of training, it has been difficult training at home at times as my three year old niece also lives with us.”

Cameron was 12 years old when his dad introduced him to Taekwondo, and he fell in love with it straight away.

The student is now part of the University’s Elite Athlete Scheme which supports young sporting stars of the future.

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