International Athletes Stuck In Limbo Upon Return To Campus

In the midst of a global pandemic, many people in the United States have forgotten the global aspect. The coronavirus exists outside of the borders, and for several international Marist College athletes, the virus was just as consequential back home. On top of their upcoming seasons being in doubt, many athletes spent the summer wondering if they would even be allowed to return to Poughkeepsie in time for the fall semester.

“If I do go back, that’s the best case scenario,” said Zion Tordoff, a member of the Marist Men’s Basketball Team and resident of Bradford, England. 

Tordoff, like many international athletes that left Poughkeepsie in March following the college’s shutdown, spent nearly five months itching to return and resume a somewhat normal life. However, even with knowing that a great deal of restrictions would be in place, the structure of daily practice, workouts and games would provide some semblance of normalcy.

For Tordoff, and the men’s basketball team, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) has announced that basketball will resume on Nov. 25, an official schedule will be released sometime this week. It seems that him and his teammates are going to get the opportunity to play soon, something he, his teammates, and all Marist athletes have been looking forward to since March. 

“I felt like my life was kind of on pause at home,” said Shinae Carrington, a member of Marist’s Women Water Polo Team. 

Carrington, a New Zealand native, expressed her desire to get back to school and resume her life with her teammates, despite all of the potential risks. New Zealand handled the coronavirus better than nearly every nation in the world, at one point being 100 days free of the virus, and still, Carrington was eager to get back and in her words, “just make myself happy.”

For all of these international athletes, the risks and rewards had to be weighed. Personal happiness and a desire to rejoin their typical lives were assessed alongside the propositions of maintaining student visas, travel restrictions, and the overarching theme of self safety.

Liam Salmon of the Men’s Soccer Team dealt with all of this as he returned to and from Canada over the quarantine period. 

“It was a little bit difficult with plane restrictions, and it was strict when crossing back over the border,” he explained. He described Canada’s general fear of the pandemic in the United States, and due to their proximity, they “treated it as if it was two times worse.” 

For some such as Huib Achterkamp, Salmon’s teammate, or Ahmed Sallam of the men’s swimming team, they had the foresight in March to know that the fall semester could be in doubt, and they did everything to stay in the United States for as long as possible.

“I was scared of not coming back for this semester, and not being able to compete or play,” said Achterkamp from Steenderen, Netherlands. Fortunately for him, he was able to stay with his girlfriend and avoid going home altogether, leaving less doubt that he would be prevented from returning to Marist this fall.

Similarly, Sallam found residence with his sister in Louisiana, where he could wait and see what decisions Marist would make in regards to the upcoming semester. 

“I was concerned about if school was going to happen with everything that was happening with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and if I was going to be allowed to stay in the U.S.,” he explained. 

These were and still are fears that international athletes have to battle with every day. While Marist has had relative success with keeping COVID-19 off campus, contingency plans are being put in place by both the college and the athletes in the event that a spike in cases occurs. Nobody is going to let the virus sneak up on them like it did last March, but with additional consequences, Marist’s international athletes are being extra careful.

“Marist is putting a lot of good measures into place, and hopefully we’ll be able to finish this semester and get our spring season,” said Sallam.

“That’s the goal, and that’s what we’re here for,” agreed Achterkamp.

The general consensus is that everybody wants to get back on the field, court, or in the pool, but when it is safe to do so.

Edited by Nick Stanziale

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