The countdown is on for Michelle Bromley as she counts down the days to her Olympic debut in Japan.
The table tennis pro, who grew up in Gulgong and is now based in Neutral Bay, said it's been a case of 'make us of what you have' when it came to preparing for the Tokyo games after a ban on international travel was put in place, preventing the athlete from competing internationally. Michelle originally qualified for the games at the beginning of 2020.
"Obviously, it's not ideal. It would be great to get that international exposure and more so playing against people that you have never seen before and aren't familiar with their game, whereas locally, you find that you know what to expect," she said.
"So I mean, there is still a difference, but as far as quality games - I've definitely still been able to find those on home soil.
"[In] the last three months, I've just being trying to enter as many local tournaments as I can to really get myself ready for match preparation."
Michelle has competed in and won a number of local tournaments and soon she will also compete in a couple of newly created Table Tennis Australia tour events in Australia, these were developed in order to give - during COVID - players as much practice within Australia as possible. The first of those events kicks off next weekend in Sydney. Following that there is a follow up event in Melbourne, national championships at the Sunshine Coast and then, finally, following that Michelle will head to Tokyo.
Though not mandatory, Australian Olympians have been receiving their first of a round of COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the Tokyo games amid a raft of health precautions imposed on travelling athletes.
"We received our first jab last week. And that's the Pfizer vaccine that all athletes have been given access to. It's not mandatory, but it's strongly recommended just to ensure that we're keeping ourselves, our teammates and also the Japanese locals as safe as possible during the games. We've got another three weeks to wait until we can get the follow up jab..." she said.
If it were not for COVID, Michelle would have long ago competed at the games. So has the year-long delay affected her chances for gold? Michelle said in fact it might be the opposite.
"I'm really happy with where my game is at and how I've even evolved just over the past twelve months since qualifying. I definitely feel like I've even improved my game since then," she said.
"So I'm happy that I'll be in a better position going into July, this year than where I would have been a year ago. I think the challenge for me will be more on just that mental side and making sure I'm mentally prepared for each match and not getting overwhelmed with the new experience of it all."