WORLD

Cuban Athletes Train For Tokyo Olympic Games Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

The 27-year-old woman, who has set up a roof-top gym at her place in Cerro, a district of Cuba's capital Havana, wants to become the first Cuban triathlete ever to qualify for the Olympics.
18 May 2020 14:23
Cuban Athletes Train For Tokyo Olympic Games Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
Leslie Amat is training at her home in Havana, the capital of Cuba, May 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Joaquin Hernandez)

As sports centers being shut down nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cuban athletes have found innovative solutions to improve fitness and performance without violating social isolation rules.

Leslie Amat is training hard to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 after having visited China four times over the last five years to compete at triathlon World Cups in Chengdu and Weihai where she started to pave her way as an elite athlete.

The 27-year-old woman, who has set up a roof-top gym at her place in Cerro, a district of Cuba’s capital Havana, wants to become the first Cuban triathlete ever to qualify for the Olympics.

“I want to keep my physical and mental health up during the coronavirus outbreak. I will keep focused on the dream I want to make come true. Once I get across the finish line in Tokyo, my work will be done,” she told Xinhua.

Amat, who was taken to an isolation center on the outskirts of the Cuban capital for 14 days after she came back from a sport event in Mexico, started training sessions one month ago, which include 45-minute swimming, two-hour biking and 50-minute race as well as basic workouts.

She started practicing synchronized swimming when she was five years of age and shifted to triathlon ten years later.

“Although I still have to follow a very strict diet, I feel it is a little bit better because I am allowed to eat more than before,” she said.

Amat holds the best international record for a Cuban triathlete after ranking seventh at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and is now awaiting remaining Olympic qualification events to be rescheduled.

Dioceles Fernandez, coach of the Cuban women’s national triathlon team, believes “although indoor training is very boring for athletes, it improves fitness capacities”.

Fernandez, along with other Cuban physical performance managers, uses digital platforms to conduct training sessions with elite athletes during the pandemic.

“We want to prepare them for high-level competitions. That is why they should not miss a workout session. Triathlon is not only about competition, but goals,” Fernandez said.

Sports centers, stadiums, academies and schools remain closed since March 24 as part of the restrictions enhanced to contain the spread of COVID-19 across the country.

Cuban sports authorities have said the Caribbean nation hopes to place among the top 20 countries in the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo in July 2021.

Sports commentator Guillermo Rodriguez said that despite the U.S. blockade against the island and the difficult circumstances posed by the virus, Cuban athletes have demonstrated commitment with the Olympic principles.

“COVID-19 continues to wreck the sports calendar, but athletes can not sit down and do nothing. They have to be resourceful and find a way to train, be it from balconies, roof tops, garages or terraces,” Rodriguez told Xinhua.

The Cuban delegation to the Tokyo Olympic Games is expected to gather close to 100 athletes, according to Cuba’s National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation.

So far, 41 Cuban athletes have qualified for the Olympic Games.

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