Sports

Ottawa (Canada), July 10: Ottawa-Gatineau's elite athletes have found creative ways to keep sharp during COVID-19, despite their disappointment over the postponement of the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo.
From wrestling imaginary opponents, to "swimming" on dry land, to virtual coaching sessions over Zoom, they're finding unique ways to stay at the top of their game.
CBC asked four athletes how they keep motivated during a pandemic.
Erica Wiebe, wrestler
Stittsville's Erica Wiebe, 31, qualified for the 2020 Olympics on March 14, the day after the federal government issued a blanket travel advisory. A week later, Canada pulled out of the Games, followed by the official postponement announcement by the International Olympic Committee.
Wiebe, the reigning Olympic gold medallist in 75-kilogram freestyle wrestling, plans to be ready. But that's easier said than done during a pandemic, when you're not allowed to grapple with an actual opponent.
"We have been doing non-contact wrestling practices on the grass," said Wiebe, who now trains in Calgary. "You're literally in your wrestling stance, you're in a squat position and you're moving around and you're trying to create openings against this person that you're visualizing in front of you."
A heart-rate monitor proved her imaginary foe was providing the necessary intensity. "My heart rate was over 165 [beats per minute] for the full two minutes. It is a workout, let me tell you," Wiebe said.
"I miss the travel. I miss putting it on the line at big events," she said, but look out Tokyo 2021: "I am qualified. I am going. I am ready."
Alicia Brown, sprinter
The 2020 Olympics meant more to Alicia Brown than many people knew.
The accomplished sprinter was expecting to be part of Canada's women's 4x400-metre relay team, which qualified for Tokyo at a meet in Doha, Qatar, last fall. She was planning to announce her retirement after that final race.
When the Olympics were postponed, it threw her plans out the window.
"What does this mean for my career? What does this mean for the rest of my life?" asked Brown, 30. "Your dreams just kind of slowly slipped . through your fingers."
Ultimately, she decided to forge ahead. "My entire athletic career has been about overcoming obstacles and working through adversity, and recognizing that there is more than one way to the finish line. This is no different."
Brown was born and raised in Ottawa, but now lives and trains in Toronto, where she had been unable to access a track or gym facilities because of COVID-19 restrictions. Her coach has her working out at "70 to 80 per cent of our max, with hopes that we wouldn't over-extend ourselves and get injured," Brown said.
"I've always been very go-go-go, whether it's been training, competing or travelling and juggling work and relationships. [COVID-19] has allowed me to really just slow down and reflect."
That's included more time for meditation and yoga, and for spending time with her partner.
She's not taking her eyes off Tokyo 2021, though. "I'm training with the hopes of competing next summer. That's where my heart is. It's hard to walk away."
Alexis Legape, triathlete
Triathelte Alexis Lepage, 26, has been able to cycle and run throughout the pandemic, but swimming posed a bigger challenge because he had no access to a pool for the first two months.
"I was 'swimming' outside of the water, in my apartment, with an elastic band," said Lepage. A month ago, he was able to start swimming in lakes.
Lepage lives and trains in Quebec City, but was born and raised in Gatineau, Que., where his father still lives. He was one of three Canadian athletes competing for two triathlon spots in Tokyo. The final qualifier would have been mid-May.
Lepage's coach is in Australia, but is able to monitor his progress via a data upload from Lepage's stationary bike, and from his GPS watch while running. Lepage keeps a log of his weight, fatigue level, mood and motivation.
"It was just really hard to train when you know you're maybe on the edge of getting an injury," said Lepage, who has had to administer his own post-workout massages with a foam roller and other tools.
He admits he's thought about slowing down a bit, but then his natural competitiveness takes over. "If I just stop, someone might . get ahead."
For Lepage, whose sport normally has him on the road nine to 10 months a year, COVID-19 comes with one silver lining: "I went camping with my girlfriend last weekend and it was super, super fun," he said. "Normally I just can't because I'm always training, I'm always away."
Madeleine Kelly, middle-distance runner
"This past Saturday would have been the national 800-metre final. That would have decided who goes to the Olympics or not. That was a little bit sad," said Madeleine Kelly, 24, of Pembroke, Ont. "But there's a new goal now, and that's what you have to focus on."
Kelly now lives in Hamilton and trains in Toronto.
"I didn't have weight room access or track access, so that was a bit of a barrier," she said. "But at least I got to go on the roads and do my thing. I have a lot of friends who are swimmers, and how the heck do you really train for swimming without a pool?"
Kelly trains six to seven days a week, but had reduced her intensity because "we had no access to manual therapy such as physio or massage or chiropractic. Running is hard on the body, so the whole goal was to make it out of the pandemic in good shape, but most importantly, not injured."
Lately, she's been allowed to run with training partners.
"That's been huge," Kelly said. "Even just having one other woman to work hard with . that's really all you need."
Source: CBC News