Time in quarantine a small sacrifice for Olympic triathlete Aaron Royle


Aaron Royle is looking forward to some fresh air and the sun on his back.

But you won't catch the Olympic triathlete complaining about the two weeks of quarantine he has been forced to endure in a Darling Harbour hotel room.

For starters, he supports the government policy of detaining overseas arrivals and protecting Australia's borders from the spread of coronavirus.

And it's not as if he has been in solitary confinement. Sharing the room is his fiancee, Welsh triathlete Non Stanford, and the pair have their bikes, stationary rollers, and other training equipment to keep themselves occupied.

But perhaps above all, Royle knows he has been through worse.

In 2013, after a race in Spain, he coughed up blood and soon afterwards found himself in an isolation ward, surrounded by doctors and nurses who barely spoke English.

Despite the language barrier, Royle learned he had a 12-millimetre cyst on his lung and needed a biopsy.

Doctors were concerned he had tuberculosis, or even worse, a tumour. Eventually it was diagnosed as a nasty bout of pneumonia and, after a period of convalescence, he was able to resume training.

Later that year he finished sixth in a world series race in London to guarantee his selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

"The thing was I was quite sick, so I slept most of the time," Royle recalled.

"So the time went quite quickly. But obviously I was quite worried, because the first five days they were concerned about tuberculosis on a tumour.

"I think I spent seven days in isolation. The only ones who could come in and out of the room were the nurses and doctors. Once they ruled out tuberculosis, I stayed in hospital for another week or so but the second week I started to feel a lot better and I was allowed to get up and go out for lunch, and things like that.

"But obviously that first week was scary and lonely, although my main memory is that I was feeling really tired and so I slept a lot."

Royle, from Maryland, recovered from that ordeal to collect a bronze medal a year later at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and then became an Olympian at Rio in 2016, finishing ninth.

Now the 30-year-old's dream is to wear the green and gold at the deferred Tokyo Games, in particular in the mixed-relay event, which will be raced for the first time at Olympic level. Royle has been a regular member of Australia's mixed-relay team in the past few years and they have won several medals in world-series events.

COUNTDOWN: Olympic triathletes Aaron Royle and Non Stanford will be released from hotel quarantine early next week. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

COUNTDOWN: Olympic triathletes Aaron Royle and Non Stanford will be released from hotel quarantine early next week. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

"I've obviously done OK to be part of the team, but now there are not many opportunities [to push for selection], and when you get a chance you have to do well," he said.

"I actually always enjoyed team sports as a kid, and the relay gives me a chance to enjoy that team feeling again.

"To be honest, I think I get a bigger high when the relay team has done well than when I've done well individually."

In full training, Royle can easily rack up 35 to 40 hours a week, and even during their hotel confinement he has been keeping active.

"I've been trying to break it up with a bike ride in the morning, some gym in the afternoon and another bike ride in the evening," he said.

He was uncertain where he and Stanford would base themselves after being released from quarantine, but both were relieved to have departed the United Kingdom, where the coronavirus impact has been far more severe than in Australia.

A podium appearance at Tokyo would make all the sacrifices worthwhile.

"I suppose it's a crappy couple of weeks, but hopefully we benefit in the long run by coming back to train in Australia," he said.