Michael Phelps has been open about his mental health struggles, even as he became the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.
Now, with the Tokyo Games on hold because of the coronavirus, the retired swimming great worries that some athletes may have trouble coping with this unprecedented postponement.
"It's a total bamboozle," Phelps told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "There's such a wave of emotions. I can't imagine what these athletes are going through right now."
In an telephone interview from his Arizona home, where he is largely hunkered down like so many others around the globe, Phelps gave reluctant praise to the International Olympic Committee for putting off the games until 2021 while the world deals with the pandemic.
"Honestly, my first thought was I was relieved," he said. "Now, there's more of a chance that we can beat this thing and do what we need to do to save as many lives as possible. I was happy to see them logically making a smart decision. It's just frustrating it took this long."
With the anticipated Olympic postponement now official, Phelps turned his attention to the world-class athletes who must deal with another jarring change to their preparations, even as they were still processing the cutbacks in training and lack of human contact stemming from worldwide efforts to curtail the virus.
Since his retirement in 2016, following an unprecedented Olympic career that produced 23 golds and 28 medals overall, Phelps has talked of suffering from depression and anxiety. He even had thoughts of suicide at his lowest points.
He knows this is a challenging time for those who had their sights on the Olympics, which were scheduled to open on July 24 but now have been delayed by up to a year.
"As athletes, we're so regimented," Phelps said. "At this point, all the work is done. We're just fine tuning the small things to get to this point. Now it's like, 'Oh ... we're not competing.' All these emotions start flaring up. I really think mental health is so important right now."
Phelps said the key to coping is keeping things as simple as possible.
"Just control what you can control," he said. "We're in such uncharted waters. We're getting all these big questions thrown at us: What if? What if? What if? It's so hard to understand. We're having a hard time just wrapping our head around it."
Thinking back to his own career, Phelps said he probably could have coped with a postponement just fine during the prime of his career because he had such steely focus on his goals. But he probably would have struggled with a delay leading up to the 2012 London Games, when his motivation was lagging and he wasn't even sure he wanted to compete.
"I was barely holding it together by the seams," Phelps recalled. "I don't know if I could've made it another year."
He retired after London, only to return to the pool less than two years later with a newfound passion that carried him to five more golds and a silver in Rio.
Phelps said he will gladly offer counseling and a shoulder to lean on to any athlete who is struggling over these next weeks and months.
"Some guys have already reached out, asking questions about what they can do," he said. "Anything I can do to support my friends and others who want to try to accomplish their goals and dreams, I'll do it. This is such a big time for mental health. It's more important now than it ever was before. I hope everybody is taking care of themselves mentally and physically at this time. I'm always available and open at any hour to anybody who needs help."
Now 34, Phelps is happily married with three young sons. Though he has no plans for another comeback, he is still involved in the sport through a swimwear company and other business ventures.
He was looking forward to attending the Olympics as a spectator for the first time. He hasn't been to Japan since his breakthrough performance at the 2001 world championships.
"I'm somebody who truly loves and enjoys watching the sport at the highest level," Phelps said. "I obviously know what it takes to get there. I was truly looking forward to seeing how everybody was doing."
He still plans to be at the Olympics.
But, like everyone else, his plans are hold.
This summer's Tokyo Olympics fell victim to the coronavirus crisis Tuesday as the death toll mounted rapidly in Europe and the United States, while American lawmakers closed in on a nearly $2 trillion deal to blunt the outbreak's economic damage.
The International Olympic Committee postponed the Olympics until 2021 on the recommendation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adding the games to the long roster of sports events disrupted by the deadly outbreak.
In Washington, top congressional and White House officials said they expected to reach a deal Tuesday on a measure to shore up businesses and send relief checks to ordinary Americans. Stocks rallied around the world on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average surging more 1,100 points, or over 6 percent, in early trading.
President Donald Trump urged swift action, tweeting: "Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy."
Meanwhile, Spain started storing bodies in an ice rink converted to a morgue, and the World Health Organization warned that infections around the globe are expected to increase "considerably."
Some 85% of new infections came from Europe and the United States, according to the WHO, with Spain registering a record daily increase of 6,584 new infections and a leap of 500 in the death toll to 2,696.
In Madrid, vans driven by workers in protective suits and masks brought bodies to the Palacio de Hielo — Ice Palace — mall to store at its indoor skating rink until they can be buried or cremated after other facilities became overwhelmed.
Spanish army troops disinfecting elderly nursing homes discovered elderly people living amid the bodies of suspected coronavirus victims. Prosecutors launched an investigation.
The Spanish capital last week adapted two hotels to serve as emergency hospitals to help with the overflow of COVID-19 patients. It plans to convert five more. The city has also set up a field hospital.
As health care workers worked around the clock, they also struggled with scarce supplies.
"All over the country, you see examples of workers inventing homemade suits using plastics," said Olga Mediano, a lung specialist at a hospital in Guadalajara, a city east of Madrid. "The protective suits are fundamental because without health workers we won't be able to do anything."
More than 387,000 people worldwide have been infected by the new coronavirus and more than 16,700 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. But for some older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. More than 101,000 people have recovered, including more than 60,000 in China.
In Geneva, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris cited a "glimmer of hope" in hard-hit Italy after two days of slight declines in the number of new cases and deaths, while cautioning it's "early days yet" — and the trend needed to be monitored.
In another positive sign, Chinese authorities said they would finally end a two-month lockdown in hard-hit Hubei province where the coronavirus outbreak first began.
Still, Harris said the scope of the global outbreak was "enormous" and that cases were expected to increase "considerably."
"Just to put it in proportion: It took two years in the worst Ebola outbreak we ever had, the West African outbreak, to reach 11,000 deaths," Harris said.
There have been more than 46,000 infections and 530 deaths in the U.S. as the virus continues to spread.
In New York, now one of the world's biggest virus hot spots, authorities rushed to set up the thousands of hospital beds they will need in just weeks to protect the city's 8.4 million people.
In Italy, Spain and France, the pandemic has already pushed national health systems to their breaking points.
The outbreak has killed more than 6,000 Italians, the highest death toll of any country. Officials said Monday the virus had claimed just over 600 more lives, down from 793 two days earlier.
Amid the spiking numbers in Spain, relatives of elderly people and retirement homes' workers are expressing growing concern about the situation in retirement homes across Spain, especially in Madrid.
"We live in anguish, we have no information whatsoever," said Esther Navarro, whose 97-year-old mother with Alzheimer is at the Residencia Usera in Madrid where some of the cases have been identified.
Confusion rippled through Britain on the first morning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a three-week halt to all nonessential activity. The government has told most stores to close, banned gatherings of three or more people and said everyone apart from essential workers should leave home only to buy food and medicines or to exercise. But photos showed crowded trains Tuesday on some London subway lines.
"I cannot say this more strongly: we must stop all non-essential use of public transport now," London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted. "Ignoring these rules means more lives lost."
The Philippine Congress approved a bill declaring a national emergency and authorizing President Rodrigo Duterte to launch a massive aid program and tap private hospitals and ships to help as the virus outbreak starts to take hold in the Pacific nation, which has reported 552 cases.
Pakistan ordered its railways shutdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus as cases climbed to 903. Bangladesh, with only 39 infections, also shut down all passenger rail as a precaution and suspended all domestic flights.
In contrast to other European nations, German health authorities offered some hope that the country has flattened the exponential spread of the virus, which has already infected some 30,000.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government approved a massive new aid package to cushion the economic fallout of the outbreak, offering more than 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) to tide over small companies and entrepreneurs and pump capital into bigger companies.
The death rate in Germany has been low, with 130 recorded so far, and Germany has taken in patients from France and Italy for treatment.
IOC members, national Olympic committees and athletes were all racing toward the same conclusion Monday: The Tokyo Olympics are not going to take place this summer.
Craig Reedie, a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee, told The Associated Press that everyone can see where things are headed, with the coronavirus pandemic spreading and Olympic hopefuls around the world unable to train.
"In the balance of probabilities, the information known about conditions in Japan and the COVID-19's effect on the rest of world clearly indicates the likelihood of postponement," Reedie said. "The length of postponement is the major challenge for the IOC."
Earlier in the day, IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today that he had reached the same conclusion about the games, which are scheduled to start July 24. A tweet put out by the newspaper read: "The 2020 Summer Olympics Have Been Postponed Over Coronavirus Concerns."
The IOC said no decision had been made, and Reedie was quick to acknowledge that he was speaking only for himself and not because of any insight provided to him by IOC president Thomas Bach, who will guide the final decision. Pound did not return a message left by AP. Earlier in the day, after Pound's pronouncement, an IOC spokesman said, "It is the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC (executive board) from Sunday."
Indeed, the interpretations and opinions are just that and haven't always been spot-on. Last month, Pound told AP that cancellation, not postponement, was the only real option if the Tokyo Games couldn't start on time.
But a lot has changed since then, and the rapid momentum of the "postpone" movement among athletes and nations seemed to diminish the likelihood that it will take all of four weeks for the IOC to reach a conclusion. That was the timeline the IOC's executive committee decided on Sunday when it announced it was putting together working groups to study the massive logistical issues involved in postponing the games.
Among those issues include the availability of venues in Japan, the disruption to the international sports calendar during whatever new date is chosen, the resetting of qualifying procedures, and insurance considerations; both the IOC and the Japanese organizing committee hold massive policies, the legalese of which will take time to unwind.
After that IOC announcement, however, both Canada and Australia — whose senior Olympic official is IOC member John Coates, the leader of the Tokyo inspection team — sent word that they would not or could not send teams to Japan for an Olympics that start in July.
"I know this is heartbreaking for so many people — athletes, coaches, staff and fans — but this was absolutely the right call, and everyone should follow their lead," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
Other key delegations that have pushed for a postponement include World Athletics, the international federation for the centerpiece sport of the Olympics, along with Olympic committees in Brazil, Slovenia and Germany. USA Swimming and USA Track and Field, which combine to form about a third of the U.S. team, also want a new date.
Athletes also grew louder in their request for postponement. A track group called The Athletics Association joined another athlete group, Global Athlete, in pressing the IOC to act.
The track group is led by two-time Olympic champion Christian Taylor of the U.S., who said more than 4,000 track and field athletes responded to a survey, and 87% said their training had been adversely affected by the coronavirus.
Individual athletes continued to speak out as well.
"Although I am upset that the Olympics will not be happening this year, I agree that this is the best decision in order to keep the athletes and spectators healthy and to prevent the virus from spreading further," U.S. gymnast Morgan Hurd said in a tweet, reacting to Pound's comments.
And while saying it's a done deal might be jumping the gun, it feels inevitable the announcement will come.
The future of soccer could be fewer games and fewer top competitions to help avoid a financial crisis, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a newspaper interview published Monday.
With soccer around the world in near-total shutdown and no end in sight because of the coronavirus pandemic, Infantino said the sport risked going into recession.
"Maybe we can reform world football by taking a step back," Infantino said in the interview with Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport published on his 50th birthday.
"There needs to be an evaluation of the global impact," the FIFA president said. "Let's all together save soccer from a crisis that risks becoming irreversible."
Infantino said different formats could be an answer, with "fewer, but more interesting tournaments. Maybe fewer squads, but more balance. Fewer, but more competitive, matches to safeguard the health of the players."
Before the pandemic, Infantino added to the congested soccer calendar by expanding the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams for the 2026 edition, and by trying to launch a 24-team Club World Cup next year.
The inaugural edition of the latter tournament in China was delayed last week after UEFA and South American soccer body CONMEBOL postponed their championships by one year to 2021. That was to give domestic leagues time to try to finish their seasons.
The shutdown means there are already too few dates in the FIFA-managed calendar to complete the scheduled qualification paths for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The pressure now on soccer stakeholders — many with conflicting interests — is likely to force a debate on the squeezed schedule that the pandemic has exposed.
Some influential clubs in Europe are pushing to get more guaranteed games in a bigger Champions League, and 20-team top leagues could be under pressure to make cuts. Those include leagues in England, Spain and Italy.
"It's not science fiction. Let's discuss it," Infantino said about the possibility of changing soccer calendars.
FIFA announced last month a task force of officials from member federations, clubs, leagues and player unions that would look at drafting a new match calendar from 2024. That work could also now include the next four years to adjust to the current shutdown.
Former Olympic swimming champion Cameron van der Burgh said he has contracted the coronavirus and added his voice to concerns for athletes' well-being if the Tokyo Games go ahead as scheduled.
Van der Burgh, who retired from competitive swimming in 2018, posted a series of messages on social media on Sunday describing how he had been ill with the virus for two weeks.
"Although the most severe symptoms (extreme fever) have eased, I am still struggling with serious fatigue and a residual cough that I can't shake," van der Burgh wrote on his official Twitter account. "Any physical activity like walking leaves me exhausted for hours."
Van der Burgh wrote that athletes are "exposing themselves to unnecessary risk" by continuing to train in preparation for the Olympics because there is "no clarification" on whether the games will go ahead as planned.
"And those (athletes) that do contract (the virus) will try rush back to training most likely enhancing/extending the damage/recovery time," he wrote.
He ended his thread with: "COVID-19 is no joke!"
There are now signs that the Olympics, which are due to start on July 24, will be postponed. The International Olympic Committee announced Sunday it was considering a postponement amid growing pressure from athletes and some countries who want the world's biggest sporting event delayed or they won't send teams. The Japanese government has also accepted the possibility of a postponement.
But the IOC will only make a final decision within four weeks, it said, and that means athletes may still feel forced to train for the next month as they are not yet certain the Olympics will be pushed back.
The 31-year-old van der Burgh won gold at the 2012 London Olympics and silver at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the 100-meter breaststroke. He also won six world championship golds, both long and short course. He holds the short course world records in the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke.
Van der Burgh is from South Africa but moved to London to work in the finance industry after retiring from swimming.
Most people only experience mild symptoms from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus and recover within weeks. But it is highly contagious and causes severe illness in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. People can carry and spread the virus without showing any symptoms.
More than 331,000 people have been infected worldwide, and more than 14,400 have died. Nearly 100,000 people have recovered.