Cuban athletes appeal to creativity to train amid coronavirus pandemic

HAVANA, Apr 17 (Reuters) – Swimming for miles in a makeshift rooftop pool with a rope tied around the waist, or hitting a tire with a baseball bat to maintain strength, are some of the formulas that Cuban athletes should develop so as not to lose physical state in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuban triathlete Leslie Amat and baseball player Santiago Torres are some of those who have resorted to rustic implements to complete their preparation after the competitive pause for the coronavirus.

In a country of famous Olympic athletes, Amat and other athletes try not to lose their physical condition after the closure of gyms and courts due to the epidemic.

“I am forced to train at home because of the coronavirus outbreak and we have had to invent: swimming, setting up a small pool, scheduling exercises on the exercise bike and running on a mat on the floor,” said Amat, sweating profusely after almost one pedaling hour.

The 27-year-old athlete gets up daily at 5 a.m. and an hour later goes up to the roof of her home in Havana to start a training session that includes swimming, cycling and complementary exercises.

Without the sophisticated implements that any high-performance athlete in the world can access, Amat runs for miles on a rope and performs strength exercises powered by a small cart built with iron tubes, a wooden board and car bearings.

The triathlon is known as the discipline that brings together athletes considered iron for the considerable energy expenditure and effort in swimming 1,500 meters, traveling 40 kilometers by bicycle and 10 km of pedestrian running.

“My dream is to get to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but now all the classifications and competitions have stopped,” said the student of Physical Culture under the gaze of her coach Diosele Fernández. Amat said he earns 1,000 Cuban pesos (about $ 40) awarded by the state-run National Sports Institute (INDER).

Other athletes, such as baseball players Yosvany Peñalver and Santiago Torres, with qualities for the national team, also began exercising in their homes as the virus – which according to a Reuters count has left 150,000 dead worldwide – begins to spread hard on the island.

Penalver, an outfielder for the Industriales team, was hitting several balls in the yard of his house, while Torres, with a bat in his hands, was constantly hitting a truck tire to increase his offensive power.

“I have been active at home with rubber ball defense drills and also looking for tact at bat,” Torres said, according to a state television report.

(Report by Nelson Acosta and Reuters TV. Edited by Javier Leira)