Optimism the theme as athletes begin to ease out of Covid-19 lockdown

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 00:00 |
Cellphine Chespol sprints to win the women’s 800m finals ahead of Margaret Wambui during Kenya Prisons Athletics trials. The athletics season is slowly returning to action after the lockdown. Photo/PD/DAVID NDOLO

Monaco, Monday

Athletes in different parts of the world are gradually returning to their regular training facilities as restrictions put in place in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic begin to ease.

We spoke with three European athletes, Italian high jumper Elena Vallortigara and Austrians Lukas Weisshaidinger and Ivona Dadic, to gauge their thoughts and emotions.

Vallortigara: ‘I found a very good balance’

Returning to her regular training facilities earlier this month undoubtedly provided a welcome moment of calm amid the chaos of the previous couple of months for Vallortigara.

The high jump international had endured a period of pain and heartache at the suffering caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in her homeland and also sadness and anxiety due to her rapidly changing athletics circumstances.

Yet the moment lockdown restrictions were eased and she was allowed to once again return to her regular training environment this represented a key moment in her road to emotional healing for the 28-year-old.

“Since returning to the track, it’s been a special feeling,” explains Vallortigara. “I missed it so much.

“I’m happy to have regained a bit of normality. It means less stress, because there I have all I need to train properly. I know the environment, I feel safer and able to build a better condition than staying home, training in a limited way.”

Sensibly adopting a patient approach to training at her base in Siena, Tuscany, Vallortigara is happy to once again be in an environment which will best enable her to reach the form which saw her clear a lifetime best of 2.02m in 2018.

An ankle injury curtailed her progress in 2019 but she appeared on the right track earlier this year after securing a 1.96m Olympic qualification mark in February’s Italian Indoor Championships.

Yet by late-March, Covid-19 had started to take a deadly grip in Italy. 

“Hearing and reading all the news about the virus, I started to feel anxious and even training at the track no longer became a pleasure,” she says. “Siena seemed a ghost town, going to the supermarket was (and still is) like a mission. I was very sad and afraid of what could happen.”

The Italian Government called for a lockdown in an effort to control the virus and the move forced the Italian to adapt her training needs into her 40sqm one bedroom apartment.

There she trained 90 minutes a day, five times a week focusing on mobility, stabilization, no-load strength, running and drills to maintain flexibility.

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