Back on the court and track... 66 day later

With no more than 50 athletes at a time and runners separated by a lane and 10 metres, the Carranque sports complex in Malaga was the busiest sports centre in the province on Monday.
With no more than 50 athletes at a time and runners separated by a lane and 10 metres, the Carranque sports complex in Malaga was the busiest sports centre in the province on Monday. / Ñito Salas
  • Standout local athletes told SUR what it was like getting back into their usual environment and training rhythms after two months away

For more than two months (at least 66 days), athletes, tennis players, golfers, and padel players have been unable to take to the field or track due to the pandemic. For many of them, they would have to go back to their childhood or when they had a serious injury to remember the last time they spent that much time away. With the province now in Phase One of lockdown easing, the majority of the area's standout athletes permitted to do so made their return to the track or field with the notable exceptions of padel player Momo González, long-distance runner Ouassim Oumaiz and shot putter Borja Vivas who preferred to wait as a precaution.

"It has felt like starting to play again from scratch. It's weird at first. It doesn't have the same feel as before all this started. I think it will be a matter of weeks before everything starts to feel normal again and I get my fitness back," said Alejandro Davidovich, the best tennis player in Malaga (97th in the ATP ranking), who returned to work on Monday at the Lew Hoad Club in Fuengirola because Hotel Don Carlos, his usual place of work, is still closed. Now he has to "take everyone slow, if not, I will get blisters on my hands". Davidovich could potentially return to action on 10 July on the national RFET tour.

In the world of padel, Álex Ruiz, as a diabetic, has not been able to leave his home in Alhaurín de la Torre during this time. On Monday, he took his first steps (by car at least) outside and headed to the Club Capellanía. "I've never gone 68 days without touching a racquet, not even when I injured my hand. It has been horrible. I haven't stopped working, but it's not the same not being on the court," he told SUR. Nor is the format that he is forced to practice during Phase One. "I need more dynamism," he said referring to the singles-only rule.

Bea González concurs: "At the start it's a bit weird." Padel's rising star, paired this year with the World Padel Tour number one, Marta Ortega, said on her return to the facilities at SportMiraflores: "After so much time without holding a racquet, it's about getting back to your normal level little by little. So far, I've felt good."

In the same vein, Mari Carmen Villalba from Estepona also returned to the court on Monday. First, she trained in the morning at Villa Padierna and then gave private lessons in the afternoon at the Estepona Tennis Club. "We had a kind of tube to collect the balls. My coach, Santi Moreno, was wearing gloves and everything was disinfected... And then with my students, the same, one by one and keeping their distance," she explained.

Probably the most active sports facility in the province on Monday was Carranque in Malaga city, which reopened its athletics track with restrictions in place (entrance by appointment only and no more than 50 athletes at once). Sprinter and medallist at the Spanish Championships, Javier Troyano, was one of the first through the door. "I was looking forward to coming back. It's good to train on the street, but any athlete will miss the track. Pre-season starts now for me," he says, adding that he was lucky to find the facilities so empty.

However, that had changed by the afternoon, which was reserved for clubs from 5pm to 9.30pm in 1.5-hour slots for groups up to 50. In the second of these sessions, from 6.30pm to 8pm, other national medallists arrived to train. Present were hurdler Isa Velasco and sprinter Elena Paulano (both from Unicaja) and also hurdler Alejandro Romero (from Club Nerja), who commented: "It felt like we were flying after so long without running on the track. I felt very light and free."

Everyone arriving at Carranque had to follow the same protocols. On entering, temperatures are checked, a mask and gloves must be worn until the training itself begins and wipes are given out so that they can clean all equipment they use with disinfectant gel.

Noemí Jimenez at Guadalmina (Marbella) on Monday.

Noemí Jimenez at Guadalmina (Marbella) on Monday. / SUR

"Finally I can stop training on my own," explained Paulano, who hasn't found it easy to train in isolation during the lockdown. "It's been so exciting being able to run on the track again and not on concrete and having to dodge people."

Similarly, Velasco commented: "After running on a treadmill for a month and a half, the difference has been very noticeable. Now we're starting the technical stuff and getting ready for whatever's left of the season."

The feeling was good too for Ladies European Tour golfer Noemí Jiménez, who returned to practice at the Guadalmina course on Monday morning: "It was an incredible feeling. I felt happy when I saw the ball fly. I think I've lost a little in the approach, but the rest went very well."

"I thought there would be more people, but maybe because it was the first day many were afraid," she added.