28 Jun 2020
Doha, 28 June 2020. Select student-athletes and graduates from Aspire Academy are back in training under strict adherence to health and safety procedures and precautions approved and developed by the Aspire Crisis Management Team following measures in alignment with national directives and reference to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and World Health Organisation (WHO) safety guidelines. Coaches and athletes are only getting access to the premises and facilities after showing green code on their “Ehteraz app” on their mobile phones as well as passing the temperature test.
Aspire Academy is taking many precautions in order to ensure safety of students and coaches. Sport codes currently practiced in this phase of return to training include, Athletics (sprints, endurance and thows), squash, table -tennis and fencing. Hygiene protocols and specific considerations have been made for training sessions involving small groups of not more than five (5) athletes per session. In squash only one student per court and with own racquet is currently allowed. Every student has own equipment, implements or gear and there is no sharing at all. In table-tennis, each player has a designated basket of balls and collects their own from the floor and the same applies to throws. The tables for table-tennis are placed three meters apart as are treadmills in endurance training. For sprints the athletes are keeping minimum one lane between each runner. Each student-athlete has a resting chair separated from the next one by stipulated social distancing regulations and everyone brings their own water bottle. All venues and floors as well as equipment are cleaned, disinfected and sanitized after each training and so far, all parties involved have been well pleased with the arrangements.
Aspire Academy Table-Tennis coach, Jakov Krivic and three young student-athletes, Ali Hamza, Yousef Magdy and Khalid Al Yafei were going through their paces in a morning session making the most of being back training at Aspire, “We are pleased to be able to train again here at Aspire and while we have been fortunate enough in our sport to have provided a table each to the students at the residential places during the lockdown, to meet and practice like we are doing now is great and of more benefit. Aspire has created a safe environment and we have set up the training sessions to help each player with specific aspects of their game, “said coach Krivic. Meanwhile student-athlete Yousef Magdy was just happy to return to Aspire, “I am happy to be back training at Aspire and meeting with my friends and playing table-tennis. I used to practice at home but exercising at Aspire is definitely better than exercising at home. Hopefully we're going to continue training at Aspire. “
Massimo Omeri, Aspire Academy Fencing head coach was appreciative of the opportunity to resume training, “It has been a difficult period for everyone and to be able to come back together and work with the fencers is definitely positive for everyone. We are not engaging in any “assaults”, form of contest between fencers with blades as yet, but are getting fencers to practice their hits on the coach as he instructs and helps. It is different but offers good opportunity to work on drills and things we otherwise would not have had more time for in a normal period.”
Meanwhile two of the top graduates in their respective sports, Ali Turki of fencing and Abdullah Al Tamimi of squash were equally thrilled to resume training at Aspire. Turki said he initially struggled with staying at home but as time wore on, he was able to find some positives from this period, “First of all, thanks be to God. Everyone is tired, but we are getting used to the routine of staying at home. I am thankful to Aspire for all their efforts, because when the coronavirus pandemic started and the decision was made to stop training, Aspire spared no effort and started organizing exercises through Zoom platform and other means, so we did not stop practicing while at the same time, we missed the atmosphere of training, competition, and being with teammates. Now at last we are back and able to do some practice, thank God for that, we will recover the old routine and get back to life as we knew it before. At the beginning of the lockdown it was difficult for me. I used to say to myself how could l live without practicing fencing. Looking back, I think everything that happened, was a good thing, thank God because I sat down and thought about the way I was playing before this stoppage, my game and the mistakes l made. I had time to notice my mistakes as well as my strengths, so I focused on the things I was doing correctly and tried to avoid the mistakes and I started to improve. I also discovered new interests and my hidden talents other than fencing, as I became interested in reading, drawing among other things, thanks be to God,” concluded Ali Turki.
As for Al Tamimi, World No 32 ranked player, it’s a worthy home-coming, resuming training, “It's an amazing feeling to return after I have been three months away from home. When I am in Doha, I spend six to seven hours at Aspire on daily basis. Being away for three months is like being far away from my family and I just came back. It is an amazing feeling of course. The first day of training again has been like a dream come true. I used to train every day at home, but it is a different feeling to come to your second home Aspire and practice on the squash courts.
Thank God we have come back. Thank God the conditions have become more positive and hopefully in the coming days will continue to do even more in training. Of course, Aspire trainers have prepared a program on Zoom and I have been on it daily and I have been practicing sometimes twice a day and sometimes once a day to maintain my fitness since the professional tour stopped and I do not know for how long. There are no championships in the immediate future so for now and the most important thing is to maintain fitness and be ready to play as soon as a decision is made to kick off the tournaments. I think there may be a month or more before some championships begin and God willing, we will be very ready. All squash players around the world are waiting for the time when we can compete and be ready and we are trying to be as ready as possible once the tournaments are announced, “said Al Tamimi.
Jonathan Kemp, Aspire Academy senior coach Squash reflected on some lessons picked up from the last three months away from Aspire squash courts, “Upon returning to training, coaches and players, we have all cherished even more what we have here at Aspire and will not take anything for granted going forward. We missed this place and what we are able to do here and being away made us realise just how fortunate we are to have Aspire and be able to train on these courts using these facilities,” said coach Kemp
Aspire Academy senior coach for Endurance, Steven Macklin, said, “While we are currently limited in what we can do during this phase of resuming training due to the health and safety procedures, it’s progress compared to the last three months. As coaches we have had to be innovative in our coaching methods and find new means and ways to add to our knowledge, thanks to the challenges presented by the lockdown. One of the new approaches we will put it action during this time, will see the athletes race against the clock and then we rank them according to their times, we are doing this because at this stage we cannot have athletes run side by side as yet but for sure it feels good to be back training at Aspire after period of inactivity, and we are targeting a cautious progressive return to fitness ,”said coach Macklin.
For Hamza Hamiti an endurance student graduate he would take training alongside fellow athletes over training alone at home anytime the choice is given, “First of all, thank God we're back to practice together. In fact, the last three months have been very hard. The training was individual, and we were wearing face masks and we couldn't see each other. Now, thank God, we're back to practice with each other at the academy in small groups, and we are keeping safe distances between us. It is not quite the same training in quarantine, online trainings through Zoom application and it is much better to be back training with coaches and fellow student-athletes and l hope we will soon be back to full-fledged training but for now it’s just good to be back.
The news of a return to training was welcomed by pretty much all involved, showing how the normal sporting life as we used to know is solely missed. Aspire Academy is playing its part in taking a significant step towards a safe resumption of sport.