By Simone Delochan
When Europe began going through its first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Olympian Andrew Lewis was in Spain training, away from his wife and family. There was a brief window, before international borders closed, where a quick decision had to be made, but the pause meant that distance from home soil lasted for five months. During that period as well, for about five weeks, there was no on-water training either. He was house-bound.
With the Olympics cancelled and, for what would have been for some, circumstances that would have been stressful as the pandemic wreaked havoc in Spain, Lewis had another perspective. “I am not scared of this virus,…I have a lot of respect for it, but I didn’t let me slow it down…I would operate in a very respectful way where I would wear my mask, sanitise. I would understand there are elderly people who are at risk, and other people at risk, and I don’t want to be a cause or burden on anybody else but I would like to continue preparing for what I would like to achieve.”
And continue living is what he did. Before permission was granted by the Spanish government to return to sailing (it is a no-contact sport), he and his flatmates turned their house into a gym. “It would be wake up, do what you have to do, first training session, physical session, then the coach would come over. He was basically living down the road so he would come to us. We would do theory training, watching/reviewing videos, studying rules and tactics, and then we would do another physical session and that went on for a few weeks.” Efficient use of his time carried him through the period of lockdown, and frequent contact with his wife in Trinidad. With the distance, novel online ways had to be found to ensure their strong connection remained intact.
This is where the real story emerges when chatting with Lewis: the amazing positive mindset of this athlete.
The power of positive living…and thinking
His return home from Spain in June was the product of perseverance. Several requests had been made and denied, which he understood: it’s five connections from Spain to Trinidad. Then an unexpected opening emerged: “My Guardian Angel sent a plane for me. It was an oil and gas plane that was moving between Netherlands and Trinidad, and they had to refuel in the Canary Islands, and it so happened that was where I was, so I put in my application, and I was allowed to join the flight to return home.” He says if he had not persisted and maintained a positive outlook, he may have still been in Spain.
One of the top learnings for him during the period was the appreciation of a healthy life: mind, body and soul. His philosophy is one of careful intake: “What we eat, see and what we listen to will either create a person with less fear, or a person who is living in more fear. I watch these three things very carefully, eat extremely healthily. I take care of my organism. I make sure everything I put into my body will allow me to grow, and to be safer, stronger, healthier. That is one of the more important things that is easier to control.”
Not living in fear, he says, is key to positive living. “Fear is natural; danger is what is important to recognise and is different to fear. Danger does exist. Danger is real. Fear is something we create.” Increasing fear Lewis believes, takes an individual further away from the Almighty.
Lewis is not a man who keeps his learnings to himself, nor the benefits he has accrued through sheer determination and hard work. He has continued to find ways of assisting others through donations of whatever was needed: food, money etc. He also began an online series with Don La Foucade, ‘Positive moments with Andrew and Don’.
Seeing an opportunity in the midst of the pandemic to help people shift perceptions and contribute, the 16-episode series—sponsored by Republic Bank— found resonance with a far-reaching audience, including Belgium, Canada and New York. There are plans for a second season of ‘Moments’ soon. The first season can be viewed on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb0Xn26cONyOGrFXvY8ZA5w.
And with regard to the Olympics being cancelled? There is no bitter disappointment: his love of sailing trumps all. And there is another path that he has simultaneously forged for himself, “Life is much more like helping people, spending time with family, spreading positivity, encouraging people to go for their big dreams, and encouraging people to stay happy; that’s much more what life has become to me.”