Sasha Colombo’s decision was torn between her head and her heart.
When the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of spring NCAA sports and mandated online classes at Colorado State, the Italian-born volleyball player was given two options: Return to Milan, where her parents and brother remain sheltered at home, or stay in the United States.
“It’s been a stressful time,” Colombo said. “I don’t want to go home just yet. The situation is more dangerous there at the moment. So, I’m just sticking around here while I can.”
Colombo’s story is familiar to many international student-athletes at the University of Colorado, CSU and NCAA programs across the state. The rise in travel restrictions to and from countries across the globe to curb the spread of COVID-19 has either prevented travel home, or leads to risk about the possibility of no re-entry.
Members of the CU ski team from Canada, Sweden, Norway and other European countries are currently hunkered down in Boulder unable to utilize the school’s strength-and-conditioning facilities or mountain ski areas.
“No one really knows what to do because of the uncertainty of this whole thing,” said Joey Young, a junior CU alpine skier from Ontario, Canada. “We still need to train, and we still need to keep in shape, even though our season is done. … We’re waiting it out to see what happens.”
A worst-case scenario has played out in Italy, Colombo’s homeland, where the COVID-19 death toll surpassed 3,400 Thursday afternoon, according to media reports. Residents have been ordered to shelter-in-place, leaving their homes only for essential tasks.
Colombo does her best to video chat with her family every day. Their new reality is startling.
“The only noises they can hear are usually just the ambulances since everything is so quiet. There is no one on the streets,” Colombo said. “In the beginning, it was really nice to spend some quality family time with my dad working from home and trying to entertain my little brother — like having dinner together, doing puzzles and watching movies. But then, after one or two weeks, it starts to become a bit boring and repetitive.
“You miss the freedom that you used to have.”
Colombo is optimistic that her decision to stay in the U.S. and the possible containment of the virus, will allow her to resume CSU volleyball team activities, whenever that day might come. She is also hopeful that her family’s struggle will teach others the real dangers of a coronavirus outbreak. Sports, for now, can wait.
“I would strongly suggest that people stay at home and not have social interactions unless it’s your close family and people you’re living with,” Colombo said. “Try to be optimistic and staying positive every day.”