As millions of people around the globe are gearing up to watch the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, there are a few who will be tuning in with a different perspective on the action. We asked a few Winter Olympians around the world - both retired and active - which events they will be watching, which sports they would have played if they competed in the summer edition of the Games and, finally, if they had any advice for the athletes preparing for the biggest moment of their lives in Tokyo.
Alexander Barkov, FIN | Hockey
I will be watching: Football, athletics, tennis
If I competed in summer sports, I’d be a: Tennis player
Advice for athletes competing in Tokyo: “Enjoy every second of the Olympic Games atmosphere”.
Alexander “Sasha” Barkov, captain of the NHL's Florida Panthers, will be watching “all Olympic sports whenever they are on TV”, rooting for athletes representing the ROC and Finland. Barkov was part of Finland's men's hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and despite missing the rest of the tournament after suffering a knee injury in Finland's second game, the bronze medallist has the best memories of the Olympics.
“I was in Sochi just for one week and I will never forget this experience. There is nothing like competing at Olympic Games,” Barkov says.
Luca De Aliprandini, ITA | Alpine skiing, giant slalom
I will be watching: Athletics, 100m and 200m
If I competed in summer sports, I’d be a: Tennis player/Athletics sprint runner
Advice for athletes competing in Tokyo: “If I were to address the athletes representing the sports that are not so popular outside of the Olympics, I’d like to encourage them to give their best for themselves and their country.”
Two-time (Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018) Olympian Luca de Aliprandini is picking sports similar to skiing on the Tokyo Olympics programme; he will be watching the 100m and 200m as they are “faster and closer to skiing”. It comes as no surprise that he will be supporting other Italians competing in Tokyo: “I will certainly be a fan of every Italian athlete involved in Tokyo 2020: you have to support at all costs the guys during these Olympics, especially in a very difficult due to Covid-19”.
The Italian, who finished last season with an impressive silver at the World Championships in Cortina, talked about his own preparation for Beijing, which is not so far away.
“For the moment the focus is on the new season that starts at the end of October-early November: it's important to get off to a good start and look for solid results right away and then, as the Olympic event approaches, we will redefine the preparation for the Games.”
Regino Hernández, ESP | Snowboarding
I will be watching: Different events supporting Spanish athletes
If I competed in summer sports, I’d be a: Surfer or climber
Advice for athletes competing in Tokyo: “I’ve competed three times at the Olympics and always tried to take this competition as if it was ‘just another one'. Obviously, it’s still the biggest event for any athlete doing an Olympic sport. But I think if you take this event with the importance the Olympic Games have, it can play tricks on you. So I always tried to take the Olympics as one more day at the office.”
Olympic bronze medallist Regino Hernández, who is currently recovering from wrist surgery after sustaining an injury during a World Cup race in Georgia earlier this year, will be tuning in for Tokyo 2020. But the three-time Olympian is not giving up as he is already training his legs and will be able to return to full training in about a month.
“I still haven’t qualified for Beijing, but I do still have quite a few events where I can get the qualification with the first one in November, so I do still have time to train and get ready”.
Sofia Prosvirnova, ROC | Short track
I will be watching: Track cycling, weightlifting, skateboarding
If I competed in summer sports, I’d be a: Weightlifter
Advice for athletes competing in Tokyo: “Try to focus entirely on your result, training, and performance. Isolate yourself from all the flow of information and media attention. This is what I would have told myself back in 2018.”
The ROC's biggest hope for a short track medal among women in Beijing, Sofia Prosvirnova, already has two Olympics under her belt. She is now training in the Novogorsk bubble, an Olympic training base not far from Moscow. The unique feature of Novogorsk is the fact that the facility hosts both summer and winter sports athletes. One can see figure skaters having lunch with gymnasts, while wrestlers and skiers get cramped in the elevator.
“As we are training right now with summer sports athletes side-by-side, I’d be curious to watch cycling and weightlifting," Prosvirnova says. "Short track is very connected to these sports with 50 per cent of our training being cycling or weightlifting. I was chatting with Denis Dmitriev who will be competing in track cycling. I will be following his success in Tokyo.”
Apart from weightlifting, Prosvirnova is interested in the new disciplines that will be making their Olympic debut in Tokyo.
“I’d be curious to watch skateboarding and surfing. It’s the coolest part of the Olympics as it gives a platform for new kinds of sports that you otherwise might miss. It brings athletes from all disciplines together.”
Anette Norberg, SWE | Curling
I will be watching: Athletics, Golf
If I competed in summer sports, I’d be a: Golfer
Advice for athletes competing in Tokyo: "Have fun. Enjoy the moment."
The retired Swedish curler, who is a two-time Olympic champion, is planning to watch all the events but will be focusing on those where Swedes have good medal chances: athletics and swimming. She will be rooting for the legendary Armand “Mondo” Duplantis.
Just like other winter Olympians, Norberg looked for a sport that reminder of her “native” discipline: curling. “I would have liked to have been a golf player; I admire them a lot. Golf is similar to curling in many ways due to strategic thinking and planning ahead. You always have to control your body doing the same thing over and over again.”