Matt Haanapple stands on the beach with an AMANZI shirt on, his back facing the camera,

Life during Covid-19 – Words from AMANZI Athlete Matt Haanappel

I write this on Monday the 13th of April 2020, at home, with my dog at my feet and thankfully most of my family still in work. Skype has become the new way of connecting through our workplaces and the discovery of the Houseparty app has been a welcome addition to connect with friends.  

The discussions around the kitchen table have changed from stories of each other’s full and busy days to being replaced by the PM’s daily briefings and the news out of Italy and the United States. The family now has a few puzzles and a Monopoly game in progress and there are accusations of a bank robbery by my brother. While the world has changed- at least for the next few months we all seem to be settling in to this new way of life.  

Paralympic Swimmer matt Haanappel smiles at camera in his AMANZI Squad shirt and hat
AMANZI Athlete and Paralympian Matt Haanappel tells us about life during Covid-19

I haven’t left the house for anything more than a walk in many days with only my father venturing further to get essential food and supplies.
This is because, on top of our own, my father is also shopping for my elderly grandparents. Our household has taken extra precautions to minimise the chance that COVID-19 can reach my father and then onto my grandparents, all that are in their 80’s. I am sure that this is a reality for many of the AMANZI family as well.

My daily schedule has focused around the work that I can do from home, the closure of the recreation centres where I work has changed much of my role in Diversity and Inclusion. It has switched focus to mental health and online engagement, this past week I have been calling our members, the stories I have heard have been truly interesting. Many of our members are quite socially isolated through retirement and nursing homes and a call from someone friendly can really make the difference to their day.

It has been close to a month since our squad at Camberwell Grammar Aquatic has trained in a normal fashion. Training as we know it has changed, but it has not ceased. The squad and I have access to three sessions a week via Zoom. Our strength and conditioning coaches and our head swim coach coordinate a mix of cardio, stretching and abs exercises.
It is wonderful to join in with as many as 30 swimmers mostly aged between 10 and 20, logging into each and every session to not just keep active but also to socialise for an hour or so, which has kept the connection going through this extended period of uncertainty. On top of this, coaches set daily challenges and these are posted on our Teams group which is shared between all the swimmers. Coaches are keeping score of how often each swimmer is participating in each activity with points awarded on a scoreboard showing the current leaders that have participated the most through past weeks.

With the cancelation of the National Championships in Perth and the rescheduling of the Olympics and Paralympics, this has thrown a curveball into much of our goals as a swimming community. There is no set date to when swimming could return and it very may well write off much of the Australian Short Course season through September. But when it starts, I am sure we all will be ready!

Before COVID-19, I had been moving to a decision that my International swimming career would likely come to an end after the 2020 Paralympics. But I will never stop swimming as it helps control my Cerebral Palsy symptoms, any form of retirement for me means I will just stop competing on the International stage. It is common for Multi Class or Para-athletes to continue in the sport of swimming well into their 40’s and 50’s for these reasons, like examples of Swedish swimmer Anders Olson and British swimmer Sascha Kindred both of who I raced in London 8 years ago. These men have led the way to show the world that swimming is a sport for life. So, when this crisis ends, I will continue to swim.

To the AMANZI family, there is a great British saying “Keep on, Keeping On” which I feel really sums up the feeling for the most of us, the sport we love will return, keep at this because there are options in this sport for you to remain active during this time and get the very best out of yourself.
Most importantly, it is this time, of all times, that you consider and reach out to use the support of your family, your friends and coaches. Your closest supports will bring you to “the other side” of this really tough time.

To help get you through #iso, I also have a few recommendations. I have finally had the time to get into my TV shows. Our family has invested in quite a few streaming networks and so here is my Top 5 shows for all your #isoathome needs.

  1. Designated Survivor – Netflix
    Kiefer Sutherland is back at his best, as good as 24 in my mind.
  2. The Crown – Netflix
    “For the Monarchist in me, my late grandmother and the Queen are born on the same day.
  3. Icarus- Netflix
     A must watch for any sportsperson or lover of sport.  
  4. The Mandalorian- Disney +
    Who doesn’t like Baby Yoda! Cuteness!
  5. The Grand Tour- Amazon Prime
    An easy watch with three English middle age men falling over- one of my father’s favourites. 

These shows and movies should get you through the next few days and weeks to come.

I look forward to speaking to you really soon and in a few months around the pool with the AMANZI family again. Remember to keep sending your Instagram videos and pictures of your adventures during #isoathome and tag the AMANZI team, we would love to see what you are up to!