CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s Olympic bronze medalist Hedaya Malak says she imagines her living room is a taekwondo hall as she tries to adjust to training from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and keep in shape for her third Games.
The 27-year-old, who finished third in the -57kg category at the Rio Olympics four years ago, has already qualified for the Tokyo Games, which were postponed for a year to 2021 in March.
Since the new coronavirus outbreak her training partners at her Cairo apartment are her brother — who also practises taekwondo — and a human-shaped kicking pad donated by a sponsor.
“Most of it is mental because you have to challenge yourself and push yourself to keep on training every day, which is not so easy when you’re at home and everybody’s watching TV or studying, or playing around the house,” she said.
“So it’s challenging. But at the same time you know that everybody around the world is in the same situation.
“I try to imagine that this is my taekwondo hall, and this is where I am training and this is where I find my athletes and my friends, my team mates, as if they’re training with me.”
Malak said she was shocked when she heard the Games had been postponed for a year, but is using the time to recover from injuries and study other athletes by watching videos.
She has also been cooking and drawing, and enjoys seeing more of her family.
Egypt has confirmed more than 35,000 coronavirus cases. Gyms as well as cafes, mosques and schools have been closed. Malak is supposed to go back to an Olympic training center in mid-June.
“It’s not going to be easy,” she said. “We won’t have sparring or fighting with each other, I think we will be far from each other … and I think everyone will be wearing their gloves, wearing their masks and everything, so everybody’s protected.”
(Reporting by Amr Dalsh and Sherif Fahmy; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Toby Davis)