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SEATTLE (AP) — This year started with so much promise.

I spent two weeks in January competing in biathlon races in Seefeld, Austria, during the Winter World Masters Games 2020, winning three silver medals and celebrating with 3,000 winter-sport athletes from around the world.

Six weeks later, I was hunched over my laptop at my dining room, keeping track of COVID-19 deaths in the U.

S. and afraid to step outside my house.

The swerve from international celebration to home-office isolation was jarring. But being an Associated Press reporter in Seattle, where the earliest coronavirus cases were reported in the United States, gave me a unique front-row seat to a worldwide event.

I’d been training for the Austria trip for years. The Winter World Masters Games are the Olympics for masters athletes – people 35 years and older. It’s held every five years in different locations. Innsbruck2020 hosted competitors in a dozen winter sports.

I started racing biathlon when I moved to Seattle in 2014, after cross-country ski racing for about 15 years. Biathlon combines the physical demands of Nordic skiing with the laser-sharp focus of marksmanship.

We ski loops around a track and stop at the range to shoot at five targets with a specialized .22-caliber biathlon rifle, both in prone and standing positions. I train year-round and race at biathlon sites across the country and Canada, including annual trips to Finland for the master biathlon world championships, where I’ve won five gold medals.

More than 40 biathletes from across the U.S. traveled to Austria for the January races. We flew through international airports, crammed onto trains, ate at restaurants. About 200 biathletes and their supporters jostled for shooting mats at the Seefeld range.

In other words, life was “normal.”

When I returned to the Pacific Northwest, the coronavirus story was growing. I moved to my home office in late February as new cases came in each day and people were dying at a nearby nursing home.

One day, a colleague asked if we were keeping track of coronavirus deaths in each state. The go-to source, the Johns Hopkins University virus page, offered world and U.S. numbers but lacked timely state-by-state counts. So I started a tally for AP.

By March’s end, the death count was spiking. One Saturday morning I reported 270 deaths, and the number jumped by 130 overnight. By Wednesday it increased by 217; on Friday, we hit 1,550. U.S. fatalities now top 190,000.

Seeing the rapid death toll was disturbing. After a time, we began using Johns Hopkins counts for all our stories, and I stopped keeping track. I was sad to let go of that steering wheel, but also a little relieved. I had not taken a day off since the outbreak started and welcomed a chance to clear my head.

Which was what training helped me do. Through this stressful period, I kept my sanity by maintaining my biathlon routine, which includes eight to 18 hours of workouts six days a week.

During a recent work webinar about dealing with stress, a counselor said this: We can’t control outside events, but we can choose how we respond to them. For me, the go-to tool for reacting to anxiety has always been physical activity. This year was no different.

My biathlon racing season had been cut short. They cancelled U.S. Biathlon Nationals in March. It’s still unclear what will happen this winter.

But each morning, I head out for a long run or rollerski interval session. Weekend runs and bike rides can last three hours or more. I haven’t gone to the shooting range like I normally would this time of year, but I’m staying on track.

I hope next winter will bring more travel and racing. In the meantime, training keeps me sane.

___

Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. Follow Seattle-based AP reporter Martha Bellisle on Twitter at http://twitter.com/marthabellisle

News Source: Associated Press

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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson enjoying training camp with little drama: I like it like this

Though it’s strange to use the word boring in connection with Lamar Jackson, the first two and a half weeks of his training camp have been relatively uneventful, blessedly so if you ask the Ravens’ franchise quarterback.

Coming off a year in which he missed significant practice and game time because of illness and injury, he has not been absent for a moment of camp. He has not hit peak form in every practice but has thrown with more zip and accuracy than in any previous summer of his career.

“I like it like this,” he said Saturday, speaking with reporters for the second time since camp began. “I was able to start Day One. And what is it, like Day 15 for us? And I’m feeling pretty good. Nothing is wrong with me.”

Jackson surfed into his fifth season on a wave of speculation about a possible contract extension. Would he hold out? Hold in? Set a public deadline for the end of negotiations?

He offered no update Saturday but did say he does not want talks with general manager Eric DeCosta to extend into the regular season, which begins Sept. 11 at the New York Jets. The greater point, as coaches and teammates see it, is that Jackson has not let the contract story impinge on his practice form.

“He’s doing a great job. He’s practicing every day. The business part of it is the business part,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m very confident that will get done. You can’t really rush it. Neither side wants to rush anything. Both sides want to be happy when it’s all said and done, and probably both sides unhappy … to some degree, but that’s kind of how it works. But he’s doing a great job, he’s practicing well and he’s a great leader.”

Jackson’s backup, Tyler Huntley, said he looks to the former Most Valuable Player as a model for shutting out extraneous noise.

“I look to him where’s that stuff like that,” he said. “He just blocks it out. Just focus on what’s going on right now instead of what’s outside, because we can’t control none of that stuff going on, what everybody’s talking about. One thing we can control is what’s going on on the field. He told me that.”

Huntley said Jackson is “throwing the hell out of the ball.”

Quarterbacks coach James Urban agreed, saying Jackson has built on his sharp performance during the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.

“And then some,” Urban said. “He’s looked as good and as sharp on many of the things that we worked at specifically and emphasized — I call them the squeaky wheels — and he’s in a great place.”

For example, Jackson has talked about trying to keep his left arm calm so he can follow through cleanly on his throwing motion.

“If you rip out your left elbow, your left shoulder, then you get wild,” Urban said, torquing his upper body to demonstrate. “Just generically speaking, watch any NFL quarterback throw and there’s some calmness to the left side. Watch a baseball pitcher, same thing. … Mechanically speaking, that is something we’ve talked a lot about.”

Urban went back to one of his favorite comparisons, saying Jackson is like a younger Michael Jordan, who needed to add a reliable jump shot and a sweet fadeaway to his drive-and-finish game. “What area of my game needs improvement?” the quarterbacks coach said. “What area of my game needs to grow?”

He said he and Jackson’s private throwing coach, Adam Dedeaux, have collaborated on steering the 25-year-old superstar through those refinements.

“Adam and I work very closely together; we’re very friendly,” Urban said. “We’re colleagues. He asks me questions. I ask him questions. It’s been a great symbiotic relationship.”

One question around Jackson never seems to change: Will he break down if he continues to average double-digit carries per game as a runner? “I’ve been good with how I’ve been playing, but when I tried to sit and stay in the pocket, I got hurt for the first time,” he said, referring to the ankle injury he suffered last season in Cleveland. “So I think it speaks for itself.”

He recently told NFL Network that his weight is up to 230 pounds, roughly 20 pounds of muscle north of where he played last season. Is the greater bulk designed to make him more durable?

Jackson mostly laughed off the question. “I just wanted to look the part,” he said. “I just wanted to look a little sturdy back there, look a little big. I feel like it worked. I’m still fast, still moving around like I was.”

Urban said he’ll never tell Jackson to stop using his unique gifts. “Don’t let me coach you out of being a great player,” he said he tells him. “Trust your instincts.”

Jackson did not play in the preseason opener Thursday. When asked if he will go in for a series or two in the Ravens’ Sunday night matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, he said, “I might give it a shot; I don’t know yet.”

If his camp has been calm compared to last year, when he missed the start because he was sick with COVID-19, he’s still never allowed to forget that all of the franchise’s hopes for a Super Bowl hinge on him.

Jackson lives another Beatles moment at the end of every practice as a mob of young fans, many wearing his No. 8 jersey, serenades him with cries of “Lamar! Lamar!” He tries to slap as many hands as possible without being swallowed up.

Does he ever leave home and not hear someone yelling his name? “No, I don’t,” he said.

Preseason, Week 2

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