Doing the best they can -- lockdown athletes use brain, not just brawn

Paris (AFP) –


Alexandra Recchia balances a lampstand on a flower pot filled with pebbles. She places cushioned pads at head height and chest height on the precarious structure, before binding it tightly together with adhesive tape.

Then the 31-year-old karate champion unleashes with fists and feet on what serves as a make-do punch bag.

Like all athletes in coronavirus-induced lockdown France, Recchia is using brain as well as brawn -- doing the best she can with materials at hand in her home in the Paris area. Not the best preparations for the next Olympics in which she hopes to represent France. But better than most. At least she has access to a tiny garden.

She is doing "eight to nine training sessions, six days a week," three of them working out with the lampstand-cum-punch bag which is holding up pretty well after nearly three weeks of pummelling.

In his house south of the French capital, Yoann Offredo has set up a stationary race bike in his basement where he toils in the hope that part of the cycling season can be rescued.

His favourite time, the spring classics season, is already lost and even the greatest race of them all, the Tour de France, is in doubt. Offredo reckons that at 33 it will be his last season in the saddle.

He still pushes himself to the limit. And when legs are weary and his mood sags, he gets a charge of encouragement from the photo of his hero Fausto Coppi, which hangs from the wall of his makeshift gym.

Judoka Kilian Le Blouch was on the point of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics when international competition was suspended. So it was back to the drawing board -- literally -- for him and his judo fighter partner Sarah Harachi. The day's training in their two-room Paris area apartment is written up in minute detail on a white board in the kitchen.

"That helps to maintain the rhythm, the rigour, so we don't lose track," he said.

They have installed a home trainer in the living room and a bar fixed to the entrance which Le Blouch described as "the lockdown star" for helping to keep him toned while he is deprived of the facilities provided at a well-equipped gym.

At home, his goals are modest. Keep fit, stay trim, and maybe take advantage of the lockdown to work on weak areas he normally has no time to address. And hope the lockdown ends soon.