The reality was for British shot putter Sophie McKinner who has been balancing the dream of Olympic glory by working for both a custody officer and a gym instructor for years.
His work with the local constabulary makes up the bulk of his earnings and serves as the perfect distraction from his sporting career, even as things occasionally get heated.
“We’re like bouncers. If people start kicking, we deal with it, so it’s an interesting job,” he told CNN Sport.
Refusal of funding
The nature of the work requires McKinna to keep calm in some test situations but she has enjoyed her challenge as it grows.
“You go inside and are different every day,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get.
“I really enjoy my work and it keeps me away from athletics.”
The recent lockdown has only highlighted the importance of such confusion to McKinnon, who has temporarily stepped down from his role to protect himself from the virus.
He has been able to continue training in his garden but is struggling to live, sleep and practice in the same place
That’s why McKinna chose to reject British athletics funding earlier this year, a move that saw him drop to £ 15,000 a year and see the opportunity to become fully professional.
Strangely enough, the decision seems to have been made by McKinney, who was determined that nothing would bother him in his preparations for the Olympics.
“If I became a professional athlete, my brain would shrink because I was so close to it,” he said.
“I learned isolatedly because I was on just above where I was training […] So the little spark that you or I usually get doesn’t sound bad.
“If I become a professional athlete, it will be my daily reality and I don’t think I can fight it specifically.”
McKinnon was guaranteed a 2020 seat on a Tokyo flight this summer before the spectacle was postponed amid a corconvirus crisis.
He had already dropped the required qualifying distance to the Doha World Championships in 2019 and only needed to finish in the top two at the British Championships – somewhat better in his skills.
Acknowledging his initial reaction to the suspension was a disappointment, as the 25-year-old quickly put the matter into perspective.
“It was painful and the immediate reaction was to think there was some way to go about it,” said McKinney, who worked tirelessly for 12 years to get to his most vulnerable position.
“Sport is very important in my life, but for people to lose their lives, to lose their loved ones, is much more important than throwing as many balls as I can.”
Although the sport was apparently his destiny – his grandmother was a professional footballer and director of Norwich City – shotpots were not his initial calling.
Instead it was a more captivating application of sprinting that first caught his attention and his talent was evident at the local level.
Despite having plenty of county medals, he knew he could never enter the world elite as a sprinter.
In fact, her mother persuaded her to throw away her reluctant 13-year-old daughter.
“As a normal teenager I said ‘No, I’m not doing it, it’s not cool, there’s no chance.’ I obviously ended it because he paid for it and if I don’t, I’ll get in trouble, “he recalls.
Within eight weeks of this first session, McKinna finished second in her age group at the national championships and quickly recognized her own potential.
She has not looked back since.
Last year’s Doha World Championships saw him throw the best of his life, at one point met with authentic ecstasy and a celebration across the track.
An experience that confirmed his place in Tokyo, an experience that will now have to wait until next year
Meanwhile, McKinna has to compete virtually through video calls.
He and other British athletes have so far competed in two virtual competitions where amateurs from all over the world are encouraged to throw away what they have.
As the fight against the epidemic continues, the initiative is also raising money for the British NHS.
“It’s very close to my heart and that’s what I want to be involved in,” says McKinna, whose sister works at the hospital.
“It’s also about throwing in front of everyone. You don’t usually see shots read on television; it’s usually an ongoing event, so it’s great to be the only show.”
“It’s really nice to see people drawing chalk circles on the floor and just moving on.”