That was the reality for British nerd Sophie McKinna who aligns her dream of Olympic fame with working as a gym caretaker and instructor.
Her work with local offices makes up most of her income and is the perfect distraction from a sports career, even if things get heated up occasionally.
“We’re like bouncers. If people start sending, we handle it, so it’s an interesting job,” she told CNN Sport.
The nature of the job requires McKinna to be calm during some testing, but it’s a challenge she enjoys as her throws get bigger.
“You go inside and every day is different,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get.
“I really enjoy my job and it gives me that space away from athletics.”
The recent lock-up only underscored how important such a distraction is for McKinn, who has temporarily moved away from his role to protect himself from the virus.
She has managed to continue training in her garden, but struggles with living, sleeping and exercising in the same place.
For that reason, McKinna decided to turn down funding from British Athletics earlier this year, prompting her to drop £ 15,000 a year and a chance to become fully professional.
The strange decision seemed to make perfect sense for McKinn who was determined that nothing would upset her preparations ahead of the Olympic year.
“If I had become a professional athlete, my brain would have turned into a cough because I would have been too close to it,” she said.
“I learned this in isolation because I’m right at the top where I train […] so you don’t get that little spark or buzz I normally get.
“If I became a professional athlete, that would be my reality every day and I don’t think I would handle it very well.”
A ‘painful’ delay
McKinna had almost every guaranteed seat on a plane for Tokyo 2020 this summer, before the spectacle was postponed amid the coronavirus crisis.
She had already thrown the required qualifying distance at the 2019 World Championships in Doha and only needed to finish in the top two at the British Championships – something within her means.
Acknowledging that her initial reaction to the delay was one of the disappointments, the 25-year-old quickly put things in perspective.
“It was painful and the immediate reaction is to think there has to be some way to keep it going,” said McKinna, who worked tirelessly for 12 years to get into her enviable position.
“Sport is extremely important in my life, but people who lose their lives, lose their loved ones, are so much more important than me to throw the ball as much as I can.”
Although it seemed to be her destiny – her grandfather was a professional footballer and manager of Norwich City – the shooting was not her original calling.
Instead, her attention was first drawn to the more glamorous appeal of the sprint, and her talent was clearly seen locally.
Despite a host of county medals, she knew she would never break into the world elite as a sprinter.
In fact, it was a mother who convinced her reluctant 13-year-old daughter to throw herself into the throw.
“As a typical teenager I said,‘ No, I don’t do that, it’s not cool, there’s no way. “Obviously I ended up with it because she paid for it and I would get in trouble if I didn’t,” she recalls.
Within eight weeks of that first session, McKinna finished second in her age group at the state championships and quickly recognized her own potential.
She hasn’t looked back since.
Last year, she saw the best life at the World Championships in Doha, a moment happy with pure ecstasy and a celebratory run across the track.
That throw all just confirmed her place in Tokyo, an experience she will now have to wait until next year.
Meanwhile, McKinna had to deal with virtual contests because of video calls.
She and many other British athletes have so far competed in two virtual competitions in which amateurs from all over the world are encouraged to see for themselves by throwing away everything at their disposal.
The initiative has also raised money for the British NHS as it continues to fight the pandemic.
“It’s something that’s close to me and it’s something that I want to get involved in,” said McKinna, whose sister works at the hospital.
“It’s also about throwing in the foreground. You don’t usually see a shot being filmed on television; these are usually current events, so it’s nice to be the only event.
“It’s really nice to see. People drew circles with chalk on the floor and just gave it away.”
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