Two major wheelchair fencing events were supposed to take place in Jovane Guissone's home country of Brazil, and the Paralympic champion was looking forward to them than ever.
But with the postponement of Tokyo 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Paralympic champion has been learning to adapt to the suspension of this year's competition calendar.
The cancellation of a World Cup and Americas Championships were especially personal, as they were due to be held in Sao Paulo in March and would be qualifiers for the 2020 Paralympic Games.
But the memories of past competitions, including the first World Cup held in South America in 2019, has kept Guissone going.
“For me to compete in Brazil with my family and friends was an honour since I can also count on the Brazilian fans, and that’s wonderful, listening to them call my name helped a lot.”
Powering through back-to-back setbacks
In 2019, Guissone battled through injury with epicondylitis elbow but was fully fit ahead of the season’s opening competitions.
The home star was naturally disappointed when he heard he would not be competing.
“My expectations for the World Cup and [Americas] Championship were great because I was focusing and believing in my game development and persistence so I am disappointed with the news although I understand health is important.”
The Brazilian has a strong pedigree at the Americas Championships with three successive gold medals in the men’s foil category B and he also has an epee title to defend from Saskatoon, Canada, in 2018.
Last year also saw him achieve a third-place World Cup finish in his native country in the epee. On his latest outing he stormed to gold, also in epee, in Eger, Hungary.
Now there is light at the end of the tunnel for Guissone, as IWAS Wheelchair Fencing announced that all the original outstanding qualifiers for the now rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Paralympics would be reinstated.
Tokyo 2020 is important for the 36-year-old Guissone as it could be his last Games.
'Ready for combat'
On the postponement, he said: “I was worried about this situation because the virus was already in Asian countries and that it could spread to other countries.
“When I heard the news that the year would change, I was sad on the one hand and on the other I was calm because we have to always think about our health of course now.”
Due to this, he admits: “My anxiety for Tokyo is natural, because there is always a great expectation for the event, but I’m assured that I am psychologically ready for combat!”
The Games will be the third of Guissone’s career. The wheelchair fencer will be hoping to reclaim the epee title from London 2012 after a disappointing appearance in Rio where he finished sixth in both his individual events.
It will be a different experience for Guissone after competing at home at Rio 2016 but he is confident of a successful event: “I believe that with all understanding and wisdom of the Japanese people, it will surely be a great event and I know that they will serve all the needs of the public and athletes.”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place from 24 August – 5 September.
The Qualification Regulations for the next Paralympics have been updated by IWAS Wheelchair Fencing and the International Paralympic Committee, meaning that the window for athletes to qualify will close on 31 May 2021. It also opens up the chance for athletes like Guissone to compete at regional Championships and World Cups that IWAS Wheelchair Fencing is now working to reinstate.