The Impact of COVID-19 on the Preparation for the Tokyo Olympics: A Comprehensive Performance Assessment of Top Swimmers

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 16;18(18):9770. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189770.


Background: The Olympic preparation of athletes has been highly influenced by COVID and post-COVID syndrome. As the complex screening of athletes is essential for safe and successful sports, we aimed to repeat the 2019-year sports cardiology screening of the Olympic Swim Team before the Olympics and to compare the results of COVID and non-COVID athletes.

Methods: Patient history, electrocardiogram, laboratory tests, body composition analysis, echocardiography, cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) were performed. We used time-ranking points to compare swimming performance.

Results: From April 2019, we examined 46 elite swimmers (24 ± 4 years). Fourteen swimmers had COVID infection; all cases were mild. During CPET there was no difference in the performance of COVID (male: VO2 max 55 ± 4 vs. 56.5 ± 5 mL/kg/min, p = 0.53; female: VO2 max 54.6 ± 4 vs. 56 ± 5.5 mL/kg/min, p = 0.86) vs. non-COVID athletes (male VO2 max 56.7 ± 5 vs. 55.5 ± 4.5 mL/kg/min, p = 0.50; female 49.6 ± 3 vs. 50.7 ± 2.6 mL/kg/min, p = 0.47) between 2019 and 2021. When comparing the time results of the National Championships, 54.8% of the athletes showed an improvement (p = 0.75).

Conclusions: COVID infection with short-term detraining did not affect the performance of well-trained swimmers. According to our results, the COVID pandemic did not impair the effectiveness of the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.

Keywords: COVID-19; athlete; cardiopulmonary exercise test; performance assessment; swimming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Swimming
  • Tokyo