Spanish athletes fight coronavirus cabin fever


BARCELONA (Reuters) – With the Olympic Games four months away, Spanish race walker Laura Garcia Caro should be clocking up hundreds of kilometres in the Guadarrama Mountains outside Madrid, on her way to peaking for the sporting event of her life.

Instead of altitude training, the 25-year-old is restricted to rattling around an apartment, confined as part of a partial lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus which has infected around 18,000 people in Spain and killed almost 800.

The disease has ravaged the international sporting calendar but the Olympics is still standing, for now, with Tokyo organisers insisting they will host the Games as scheduled from July 24-Aug. 9.

Even if the games go ahead, the preparations of competitors like Garcia will have been seriously hampered.

“We are living every aspect of life in uncertainty, we don’t know what next week will be like, if we’ll be able to go out of the house, what the state of the world’s health will be like,” Garcia told Reuters in a phone interview.

Garcia usually covers 120 km (75 miles) per week, but the quarantine means she must remain in the flat she shares with a fellow competitor and use a cycling machine, weights and a crosstrainer to try to stay in shape.

“This situation is preventing us from practicing our sport. We are limited at the moment and wondering what to do, whether we can get hold of a treadmill, or if we will be able to go out soon,” Garcia said.

“We can remain in shape and do cardiovascular work but it’s not like training outside at all. We’re doing our best to stay fit at home, but it’s very difficult.”

Garcia is also concerned about the competitive imbalance between athletes from countries such as Spain and Italy which have imposed quarantines and nations where outdoor activity is still permitted.

She also believes the current climate of rising death tolls is no time for a festival like the Olympics.


Spain’s quarantine has also had a crippling impact on its Olympic team sports, such as the women’s hockey side, who clinched qualification for Tokyo in October.

“The only face I’ve seen is my neighbor’s from the balcony,” said assistant coach Andrew Wilson, who has been in self-isolation in his apartment for a week.

News of the shutdown hit while the team were in a training session, which was immediately cut short.

The virus wrecked the team’s planned training camps in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, as well as a reconnaissance trip to Tokyo.

Players who usually train four times per week with their clubs and with the national team every two weeks now can only focus on staying fit inside their apartments. Players and coaches are keeping in touch through WhatsApp.

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Angus MacSwan