eliteTokyoWorld News

Tokyo 2020: The elite athletes training at home

By Manish Pandey

Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightGetty Images

Training with a tin of beans strapped to a pole, or going viral on TikTok for jacuzzi swimming is probably not what athletes preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics had in mind.

But getting ready for the Tokyo Games has been anything but normal.

The competition was postponed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic and is now scheduled to take place this summer.

So what’s it been like training in a pandemic? And could training during lockdown make you better prepared for the biggest sporting event in the world?

Pole-vaulter and British record-holder Holly Bradshaw, and swimmer and gold medallist Jessica-Jane Applegate, told Radio 1 Newsbeat how they’ve been getting ready for the games.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionHolly and Jessica have represented Great Britain in championships before and know what it takes to win medals

When the UK was first placed in lockdown in March last year, Holly missed out on doing 90% of her normal training to prepare for the pole vault.

“The only thing I could do was create a gym in the garage. I did a lot of weightlifting to get stronger and have more power,” the 29-year-old says.

It required some creative thinking – Holly used the street, some bins and a home-made pole with a tin of beans on the end for weight.

“It was about working my way around it and figuring out the positives,” she says.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionAs the British record-holder in pole vault, Holly never thought beans would feature in her training

Champion swimmer Jessica spent “a good three months (training) on the floor” at first.

That was far from ideal, so for the next lockdown a local company let the 24-year-old borrow a giant jacuzzi to train for the Paralympics.

“At one end, it’s got jet-propelled water against you,” she says, “so you can swim against it like a current.”

image copyrightJessica-Jane Applegate/TikTok

image captionDespite this viral TikTok, Jessica would much rather be at the pool

Jessica’s unique training methods made their way on to TikTok and her video of training in the snow has had over 24 million views.

“It’s mind-blowing, absolutely crazy,” she says. “I’ve had so many people message me. I even walked into a Tesco and they recognised me.”

‘A blessing in disguise’

Because of the elite athlete exemption introduced at the start of the latest lockdown, which allows competitive athletes to attend gyms for training, Holly does now use normal facilities.

But she credits training from home for helping get her “in the best shape” of her life.

“I feel like if I hadn’t spent two, three months getting super strong, maybe I wouldn’t be in the best shape now.

“So although it’s not ideal training from home, it was like a blessing in disguise,” she adds.

Jessica had the option to move from Norfolk to Manchester and train there using the same exemption as Holly.

Though she wishes she could be training in a pool rather than the cold, she decided that staying at home would be better for her mental health.

“I don’t think I would’ve coped staying in a hotel room, just swimming and not being able to see my family and dogs.

“Whereas at home, I’ve basically built a gym in my dining room. I’ve got my weights and stuff in there so I can do my workout too,” she says.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionJessica has an intellectual impairment and won Gold at the 2012 London Paralympics, being awarded an MBE in 2013

And Jessica also feels that training during lockdown has helped her to be more resilient.

“It’s hard sometimes to motivate yourself, but it always feels really good once you’ve done it.

“And that’s what motivates me the most – knowing I’ve done it. And once I’ve done it, I can just relax,” she adds.

media captionShauna Coxsey, Britain’s most successful competitive climber, is training in her basement

Holly agrees, saying the whole experience has taught her to “make the absolute best” of the circumstances:

“Every time you adapt and overcome, you feel like you’re getting more resilient and stronger.”

Now, she can’t imagine being in a better place heading into an Olympic competition.

“So I couldn’t really ask for much more,” she says.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

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