Coronavirus: No hurdle too high as Singapore athletes adapt to stadium closures

National athletes (clockwise from top left) Shanti Pereira, Timothee Yap, Kerstin Ong and Soh Rui Yong are adapting to circuit breaker measures while keeping up their training regimens. PHOTOS: ST FILE, TIMOTHEE YAP/INSTAGRAM, KERSTIN ONG/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - Forced off the track owing to stricter circuit breaker measures to control the spread of Covid-19, Singapore's track and field athletes have instead moved to the tarmac, grass and parks in order to keep up with their training regimens.

National sports agency Sport Singapore announced on Thursday (April 9) that it would close all its 15 open-air stadiums from the next day till further notice. The 15 stadiums, including the Home of Athletics at Kallang - the national team's training site - Bedok and Jurong West, had been the only sports facilities that remained open when the circuit-breaker measures kicked in on Tuesday.

Sprinters Shanti Pereira and Timothee Yap, have had to adapt by running in parks and on roads, but the duo noted that they are unable to wear their spikes, which are used in competitive races. Like many others, they have been training on their own since official training for all national athletes was suspended from Tuesday.

Yap, 25, has been doing sprints on the road near his home in the evenings while Pereira, who usually does her track sessions four days a week, has found an 80m grass patch within her condominium in Changi.

"I would do short sprints of 30m to 40m there, said 23-year-old Pereira, who holds the women's 100m and 200m national records.

"For other workouts, I'll use a road that's also in my condominium leading to the carpark, and I'll do longer runs around the neighbourhood as a recovery workout."

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong, who usually does speed training twice a week at either the Queenstown Stadium or Kallang track, plans to replicate the sessions at a nearby park.

Hurdler Kerstin Ong will follow suit with intervals runs at the park, though she feels that the quality of training may be affected as she is unable to use her spikes and hurdles during practice.

With the global coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the sporting calendar, the athletes' training programmes have also been disrupted, as they usually aim to peak at a certain race or within a specific month.

Despite the setbacks and uncertainty, they are choosing to focus on the positives, with 2015 SEA Games 200m gold medallist Pereira saying: "I'm just thankful for the fact that I can still use different surfaces to do drills and run, whereas a lot of other athletes need a specific kind of environment (and equipment) to train."

Ong added: "I started training with a new coach in February, so I'm taking this as a chance to adapt to a new training programme without the pressure of having to perform in a competition right now."

Though Soh disagreed with the decision to close the stadiums, the two-time SEA Games champion acknowledged that it was inevitable.

"The unfortunate thing was people weren't going to the stadiums to exercise, they were going there to hang out ... because people didn't follow the guidelines, it's inevitable that stadiums have to close as eventually safety has to take priority," added the 28-year-old.

But he noted: "It's not the end of the world without the track, you can still adapt as a runner and get used to your environment - there are other ways that people can get creative and exercise."

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