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Jakarta Post

Athletes find way to cope with boredom during social distancing

  • Ramadani Saputra
    Ramadani Saputra

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 20, 2020   /   05:03 pm
Athletes find way to cope with boredom during social distancing The spread of COVID-19 across the globe has led to social distancing, especially in virus-hit areas. (shutterstock/-)

In uncertain times amid the global COVID-19 pandemic that has forced millions of people around the world to restrict their activities, Indonesian athletes are getting creative in making the best of their time while maintaining social distance.

Para badminton player Leani Ratri Oktila is trying to stay positive, focusing on maintaining her physical fitness and health in a training camp in Central Java’s Surakarta, where the local administration declared an extraordinary occurrence (KLB) status following the death of a COVID-19 patient in the region last week.

Leani is among the para athletes set to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics and is continuing her training program, while athletes for the ASEAN Para Games have been sent home after the event in the Philippines was canceled.

Coronavirus fears have brought uncertainty to sports globally, forcing tournaments to halt and training facilities to close. But the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) coordinating commission for the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo reportedly remains confident the events will go ahead as scheduled in July and August respectively.

“I am maintaining my stamina amid some adjustments to the training programs. We used to practice six days a week, but now we practice three days a week with three hours’ duration in each session. We also sunbathe in the morning,” Leani told The Jakarta Post.

During her spare time, Leni tries to keep herself busy by reading books, watching movies or playing games with her colleagues.

“We play [board games] like Ludo to kill boredom. We are not allowed to go outside,” she said.

For veteran shuttlers Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan, the looming virus threat means no time to meet their families after returning from the All England tournament in Birmingham, the United Kingdom, last week. They went straight into self-isolation for 14 days at the national badminton training center in Cipayung, East Jakarta, upon arrival in Indonesia, under the Indonesian Badminton Association's (PBSI) recent initiative to prevent contagion.

Ahsan said he maintained communication with his wife and children via video chat mobile phone apps.

“Now it feels like going back to life in the dormitory. It’s been ages since I stayed in Cipayung. The last time I lived here was in 2012,” Ahsan said. “Here, time moves very slowly."

All badminton players and officials returning from international sporting events are now in self-isolation in Cipayung. They must maintain social distance and may only leave Cipayung for emergency purposes after obtaining permits from their coaches and the association’s doctors. The PBSI also provides a special training program designed for their quarantine.

“Well, we eat, we sleep, watch some TV, play a game over and over again,” Hendra said. “We also have our meals delivered to our room; we do not eat in the mess hall.”

"The sense of boredom is building up," he said. “But, what else can I do? Safety comes first. After all, my children are at home, so it’s better for me to stay here for a while."

Concern over the coronavirus has forced a number of international organizers to postpone or cancel tournaments, including the Swiss Open, the India Open, the Malaysia Open and the Singapore Open, and cast a shadow over the future of the Tokyo Olympics.

“I hope this pandemic is over soon. I do not want to speculate about the Olympics. What is important now is for me to maintain my health,” Hendra said.

More badminton players returning from Birmingham arrived in Cipayung on Tuesday evening, including All England champions Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti. They are in self-isolation in Cipayung now.

The PBSI regularly sends a medical team and nutritionists to monitor the players.

“We are paying attention to hygiene and we will spray disinfectant on the equipment used by the athletes,” PBSI head of achievements and development Susy Susanti said.

“Our doctors said that everyone was in good condition as of Thursday. Athletes who just arrived from the All England and those who did not participate there have separate training programs, courts and gyms.”

The Youth and Sports Ministry released a protocol on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the sporting world on Tuesday night, in what critics have criticized as a tardy and mediocre move. It is not binding but rather suggests voluntary measures, including recommendations for sports federations not to travel abroad for international competitions and to suspend national events.

Across the globe, many athletes are also either in self-isolation or practicing social distancing -- some have turned to social media to share what they have been doing to cope with boredom.

In a post uploaded on her Instagram account on Sunday, Danish shuttler Sara Thygesen showed her accomplishment of finishing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle depicting the landscape of European cities.

“Sunday mood or soon everyday mood,” she wrote on Instagram, posting a sneak peek into her now everyday life at home after the Danish authorities advised people to maintain social distance.

Fears of coronavirus have forced her training facilities to shut temporarily, meaning she has to find a way to stay fit and be creative while trying to maintain social distance.

“I tried different things in the kitchen. I baked something and gave some to my friends. I watched a lot of movies and did some puzzles,” she told the Post on Wednesday. “I’m always planning what to do each day. I will try some mental training as well and cleaning up my wardrobe.”

Maintaining her health and safety is her top priority now.

"I think it is a good decision to cancel the upcoming events -- it's a bad situation in Europe right now. Safety first," said the player who now sits at 21st position in the women’s doubles world ranking.