Punching through - Amateur boxer Janathan Hanson’s Olympic dream delayed by COVID-19 pandemic
Janathan ‘Mufasa’ Hanson had big plans geared at him being an Olympian this summer. However, they were delayed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The middleweight amateur boxer was preparing for qualifiers before the start of the pandemic, which forced a lockdown of Jamaica’s ports. Having lost the London-based Damon O’Neil in the final of the National Championships in January, Hanson did not get an automatic spot in Jamaica’s team to the regional qualifiers which were to be held in Argentina at the end of March. He could only have entered if O’Neil chose not to compete. But Hanson made plans to go to Paris, France, this month to compete in the worldwide qualifiers for a spot in Tokyo. This would have been the final route into the Games.
Hanson says the cancellation of events because of COVID-19 was at first disappointing, but then he started to see positives in the situation, with the Tokyo Games now pushed back to July 2021.
“The Olympic cycle is four years,” he said. “A lot of sportsmen, not only myself, have been preparing for this Olympics from four years ago, so to come up and build up to this point and having it postponed another year is devastating because you’ve sacrificed and done so much to this point, only to have to sacrifice and put in more for another year.
“But looking at it with 20-20 vision, it does give me a longer time to prepare and to make sure that I’m ready. Funny enough, leading up to this Championships, I got a new strength trainer, I got a new coach and been sponsored by Spartan Gym, and my personal training has only got better. With this [extra] year, I can cement my preparation for the Olympics.”
HELL AND HIGH WATER
Although Hanson now has more time to prepare, government restrictions on mass gatherings mean he cannot go to the gym to spar with other boxers for sharpness.
“It’s hell and high water,” he said. “Ah boxing yuh do. It’s not track and field where mi coulda go pon di road and do two sprints. Ah boxing, and there’s nobody around me that does boxing, but I still get up and do my skipping and stuff. I try to keep myself as fit as possible and maintain a level of skill. Every day I would try to sharpen on the basics I already know. I know when things open up again, opportunities are gonna come up and I want to take advantage of them.”
Being stuck at home not only takes a toll on athletes physically, but also mentally. But Hanson also conditions himself mentally by doing exercise with his wife, Andrea, a yoga instructor.
“The yoga kinda strong still, yuh nuh,” he said with a laugh. “A lot of people think yoga is just stretching but you’d be surprised at how much physicality it takes. It’s kinda demanding on the body, holding certain positions for a while, if you don’t have that range of flexibility. But in terms of mental strength, my coach has kept me going.”
At 31 years old, Hanson says if he qualifies, this will be his only Olympics as he is planning on going professional right after.
“This will be my third attempt at the Olympics and I should’ve turned pro already, because of my record and my skills.”
Hanson says he’s not concerned about what social distancing may mean for boxing when he is allowed to compete again. For him, not achieving success is a bigger scare than possibly contracting COVID-19 from an opponent. However, when he steps back into the ring is still unsure, based on decisions still to be made by the International Olympic Committee and the International Boxing Association on when international tournaments will resume.