'What do we have available?' Tokyo hopefuls adapt training in COVID-19 era

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[April 10, 2021]    By Amy Tennery

(Reuters) - Amid the monotony of quarantine life that people had to put up with due to the outbreak of COVID-19, housebound residents in one corner of Los Angeles were treated to the startling sight of an Olympic champion sprinting down their block at full speed.

 

Allyson Felix of the U.S. in action reacts REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

The athlete was six-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, America's most decorated track athlete.

With tracks closed down due to the pandemic, Felix was among dozens of Tokyo hopefuls who resorted to unorthodox training methods as the world went on lockdown and the 2020 Games were pushed back a year.

"Iíve gone for runs before in my neighborhood but I never have sprinted through the streets," Felix, 35, told reporters during the three-day Team USA virtual media summit.

Felix, who also owns 16 world championships medals and plans to compete in the 200 and 400-metre sprint events at the Olympic trials in June, said coach Bob Kersee used a measuring wheel to mark out distances "on literally the street in front of my door."

"Seeing some of my neighbors come out kind of like wondering what's going on and hearing him with his very energetic yelling and all of that Ė so thatís probably been the most bizarre thing," said Felix.

As the pandemic upended daily life for millions across the country, aspiring Olympians came up with ingenious ways to carry on with some form of training.

Thirty-year-old judoka Angelica Delgado resorted to throwing her fiance around their one-bedroom apartment.

Shot putter Ryan Crouser, who won gold at Rio, went to a hardware store and built his own portable shot put ring, setting up shop at an elementary school and drawing curious stares from passers-by.

"The theme of 2020 was 'What do we have available?' and not 'What don't we have available'," said Crouser, 28. "Because there was a pretty short list of what we had."

Flyweight boxer Ginny Fuchs, 33, who won silver in the 2019 Pan American Games and is gunning for a spot in Tokyo, joined a month-long Team USA camp set up inside an abandoned department store.

"They still had shoe racks and everything and the checkout counter Ė no machines or anything," she said. "It was a little cold because it was in Colorado (and we) had that big snow storm and there were no heaters. We had to bring in little heaters.

"During this pandemic, you have to figure it out, you have to make things work and we did."

(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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