In Some Olympic Sports, Training from Home Is Almost Normal

17 May 2020

Nikhil Kumar is one of the best young table tennis players in the United States. Less than a month after Kumar won the right to compete in them, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games were postponed until 2021. Like so many other Olympic athletes, he is now trying to stay sharp and in shape.

What is different are all the details of his training. All things considered, he says, everything seems to be working.

"For my sport, a little lucky that we're able to have everything indoors, and it's not taking up too much space and everything," Kumar said. "Not many sports are as lucky as ours is right now, to be able to have the opportunity to continue playing on a daily basis."

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many athletes to be creative as they try to continue their training. But in some Olympic sports, working from home is fairly common. Kumar has been able to play table tennis with a robot that shoots balls at him.

Everyone is facing issues during the pandemic, but some competitors have been lucky. Weightlifter Kate Nye trains at home in her garage.

She said, "When everything kind of started shutting down, it obviously affected our lives in other ways — but weightlifting wasn't one of them. I've kind of just been going as scheduled."

FILE - In this April 29, 2020, file photo, Olympic javelin thrower Kara Winger uses a cable system to simulate throwing a javelin as she trains outside her home in Colorado Springs, Colo.
FILE - In this April 29, 2020, file photo, Olympic javelin thrower Kara Winger uses a cable system to simulate throwing a javelin as she trains outside her home in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Unusual solutions

The virus has forced some athletes to come up with unusual ways to keep training. Sandi Morris and her father built a pole vault setup so that she could train near her parents' home. In India, swimmer SP Likith has reportedly been training in a waterway at a farm. Javelin thrower Kara Winger tries to train for that event by throwing a metal pipe along an angled cable near her home.

Compared to all that, Kumar's problems seem simple. He recently made improvements to a device that shoots table tennis balls at him.

He also uses a running machine and does some weight training. However, he believes the mental pressure is his biggest concern right now.

"It's just a different experience," said Kumar, who is from California. "It's also hard to have to mentally want to push myself, every single day, to come and practice, because it's a little different feeling than if you were to practice with a person."

Nye had set up the training area in her garage before the coronavirus really became an issue. Mattie Rogers, another American weightlifter, would normally train near her home, but she also has decided to train in her garage.

She said, "I kind of like it, honestly, now, because I don't have to drive...My gym is about 40 minutes away, so if I'm doing two training sessions a day, driving there and back that many times, I'm saving a ton of time now."

Rogers did have to make changes. The floor in her garage is not level, so she tried to fix that adding a thick floor covering. She also has had to deal with neighbors' concerns about weights hitting the ground.

For air rifle shooter Lucas Kozeniesky, the place to train is the bottom floor of his Colorado home. There is enough room for him to practice shooting at his house — at the Olympic length of 10 meters.

"I opened up a couple doors, and like a hallway connected, and I'm like, ‘Oh look, this is actually perfect,'" he said.

These days the details of training can often depend on the Olympic event.

People following the sport of cycling say they expect American Chloe Dygert to win medals at the Tokyo Games. Dygert recently moved to Idaho to be near her trainer. She says not a whole lot has changed for her because she can still do individual training rides or ride indoors on a stationary bicycle.

For Kate Nye, the training has been simple, although that does not mean things are normal right now. Nye is a student at Oakland University. She wants to go to medical school. The postponement of the Olympics has created a lot of questions in her life outside of sports.

Nye thinks she can keep up with the weightlifting, however.

She said, "I've had it pretty easy. My life hasn't changed a whole lot. School went online, and I'm working at my garage as usual. What is my future going to look like, emotionally? That's hard, but everyone's dealing with that on some level."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Noah Trister reported this story for the Associated Press. George Grow adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

athlete – n. a person who is trained or skilled in sports or games requiring physical strength

opportunity – n. a good chance for progress

pandemic – n. an outbreak of a disease that spreads over a wide area and affects large number of people.

garagen. a building or room for housing motor vehicles

shut down – v. to close down

schedulev. to plan an event

cable – n. a thick rope made of wire or nonmetallic material

gymn. short for gymnasium an organization that provides exercise equipment designed to improve one's health

practicev. to train

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