Julia Gaffney competes in Women's 200 m Individual Medley SM7-8 at the Para Swimming World Championship Mexico City 2017 on Nov. 7, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico.
For Julia Gaffney, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant lots of time indoors sharing meals with her teammates.
Gaffney, in particular, loves the salmon days at the United States Olympic & Paralympic Training Center (OPTC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“They have fantastic salmon, good rice,” she said.
Gaffney currently holds the S7 world record in the women’s 100-meter backstroke. She has been training at the OPTC on and off for two years, and she said the pandemic has forced her to evaluate her progress toward the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2021.
The swimmer said she realized she was possibly putting too much pressure on herself as she chases her first-ever Paralympic Games.
“Last year, I took swimming pretty seriously,” she said. “This year, I’m trying to also have fun with it, have fun with my teammates.”
There are about 30 athletes in total — a mix of Olympians and Paralympians — at the Training Center right now. When they first come to the area, they must get tested twice, and they are not able to train until they get a negative test result.
For the 12 swimmers, they have to wear masks on the pool deck, and when they lift. They are also split into groups. When they are in the pool, the men are on one side, and the women another side to prevent them from “breathing on each other.”
Gaffney said she is grateful to train alongside many Paralympic swimmers, like McKenzie Coan and Colleen Young. Coan is a two-time Paralympian and three-time Paralympic gold medalist. Young has competed in two Games, as well, and won one medal.
The swimmers like to grab food, including fast food from Chick-fil-A or Wendy’s, together on the weekends, and sit around and talk. They reserve Saturday nights for movies.
In her two years at the OPTC, Gaffney said she is healthier now than ever. She has access to sports psychologists, therapists, coaches and different kinds of pools.