Korent on COVID-19: ‘We Will All Need To Get Through Together’

Written by John Crumlish for International Gymnast Online

Thursday, March 26, 2020

As the world struggles in the COVID-19 pandemic and athletes cope with Tuesday’s announcement that the Tokyo Olympic Games scheduled for this summer have been postponed, veteran Croatian gymnast Tijana (Tkalcec) Korent is putting her handiwork to humanitarian use by sewing and distributing face masks in her community.

Korent said she realized the dire need for personal protective equipment in her country upon her return from the World Cup of Baku earlier this month. She had qualified for the vault final in Baku before the government of Azerbaijan announced isolation measures commencing March 14, the day of the vault final.

“When I got home, the bigger crisis started,” said the 30-year-old Korent, who in addition to training works as an accountant and volunteers at a cat shelter. “Everyone was buying face masks and then when pharmacies saw that even hospitals will have issues with masks, they redirected all of their stocks to hospitals in Croatia. Some people managed to buy them, and others didn’t.”

Korent’s dedication to the cat shelter that her friend opened in 2014 inspired her to create her first mask.

“Since it’s such an unknown time for all of us, we don’t want to risk our health and the health of our loved ones and go out without a mask. And as I said, by now it is impossible to buy them. So I just decided to make them.”

Using her mother’s sewing machine, Korent has been making cotton masks in a variety of colors and patterns. “You can wash them in the washing machine on 90°C so the virus can’t survive, and then reuse them,” she said.

Korent, who crafted her first batch of masks for the shelter’s staff, is willing to meet the increased demand for her small but meaningful contribution to the fight against the pandemic.

“I made a few for every girl in the shelter, and myself, and my family when from time to time someone needs to go to the shops,” she said. “Otherwise we all stay at home as our crisis headquarters told us to. But those cats still need to be taken care of, nursed and fed. And now some of my friends asked if I can make some masks for them as well, which I will gladly do. These are the times when we need to help each other in any way possible, and if this is the way I can help people to be safer and stay healthy, I am more than happy to do so.”

Korent said that, although she and her family are well, she is apprehensive about the toll which the disease could eventually take in her town, region and nation.

“We are all safe and healthy for now,” she said. “But we only got the outbreak of virus in my county (this week) with a first confirmed corona patient. Croatia has had it for some time, but just not my region. So I think we will have some more weeks of not knowing what will happen and how many more people are positive for the corona virus.”

Like all athletes worldwide, Korent’s training has been disrupted and her competition agenda placed on hold, but she is optimistic that societal diligence will help restore normalcy in due time.

“I just hope that everyone is taking this seriously and doing according to what their state or county is saying,” she said. “This is the only way we can beat this and get back to normal lives, our jobs, and our trainings and competitions that were canceled and postponed.”

The pandemic-mandated hiatus from gymnastics has given Korent a new perspective on the challenges the all people, not only athletes, face in times of crisis.

“I know how we all worked hard to get in to shape and be ready for the competitions,” she told International Gymnast. “Now that everything is postponed, the season will be much longer than usual, but I guess this is just life. We already learned that in sport you have good times and bad times, such as injuries, sickness and bad days, which we usually all try and get through by ourselves. This is one of those bad times that we will all need to get through together, and I think we will get out stronger and a bit more thankful for what we have.”

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