Keeping Up With The Athletes: Monaco Edition
It’s almost time!! As we are getting really close to the 2020 Herculis EBS Meeting, we can tell you one sure thing: the athletes are ready! These past few weeks, we’ve taken the time to talk to world-class athletes about different things.
Mainly, the three topics frequently discussed were the quarantine, the training during this period, and their goals for this season and Monaco. We’ve rounded up their answers below.
On her quarantine:
I was actually very scared of the virus. Fortunately, I didn’t have any family member affected by it. As an athlete, I don’t want to get sick. So, I was extremely careful during these past three months. I would carefully think about where I’d go, always cover my mouth, clean my hands. Even though my life is focused on how fast I run, some situations are more important and I was just happy to be healthy.
I saw all the competitions get canceled, the Olympics, the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships, and it was hard to stay motivated. I was staying in a good shape for the half marathon but when it got canceled, I lost my motivation. I took a break for 2 weeks. People with coronavirus also came to Ethiopia, so the track was shut down. The government told everybody to stay home during April and May. Because of that, I couldn’t do much. I stayed inside and exercised inside as well.
On her goals:
I’m focused on Monaco, but I haven’t really prepared for it. When everything was shut down, and the track closed for two months, I didn’t practice much. Then in June, when things started to get a little better, there were political problems in Ethiopia and it was really dangerous to go outside. I was really looking forward to run faster in Monaco, especially because that’s where I broke the Mile World Record, but staying inside all this time, I don’t know where I’m at. I’m just going to go out there and see how I feel.
On his quarantine:
I feel bad because I feel like I wasted a little bit of my time. People are learning other languages and other things, and I really just did a lot of boxing in my basement. But I didn’t really learn new skills or cooking recipes, I was just downstairs getting my energy out.
On how he kept his focus and motivation:
We felt like the season was going to be cancelled. Everything was getting shut down. The MLB, the NBA and others competitions were stopped. Once they cancelled the Olympics, that kind of deteriorated a lot of athletes. Made them lose their initial focus. Our coach Pete Julian repeatedly told us that we’d still have meets here in America. We tried to do everything we could to normalize things, because we shouldn’t make this year a waste. There are still great things to do. And I’m really excited to come to Monaco because it’s kind of bringing everything back to normal.
On her quarantine:
Quarantine in England was good. I had access to the track a little bit and hills, and I had the gym in my basement. My coach sent me sessions from afar. I’ve been missing the technical input which I need most. As a heptathlete, I need to get through seven different events so it was quite difficult to keep the progress that I made before COVID. But I came back in decent shape, and now we have all the time in the world so I’m not too worried.
On training :
It was tough to get motivated. Definitely tough for me, because I believe I’m an athlete who works best when heading towards a significant goal. The fact that it was looking more difficult to get heptathlon out affected me a lot. I think I was in great form, heading to this year and I was building a lot of momentum. It’s good that I have some high-level competitions now. I think it’s important that athletes keep doing competitions at a high-level because it will be so much harder next year to get back if you take a year completely off.
On the Herculis EBS Meeting:
Monaco is an event that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s always been on my radar. The track and the stadium are absolutely beautiful. And there are always amazing performances that happen there each year. Most of the time, it has never really fitted into my schedule, nor my training program. This year, I really wanted to do Diamond League meets in the events I can compete in. It will be one of my first competitions this year, so I don’t really know where my performances will take me. But I want to compete for sure, and try to have some enjoyments off this year.
On what he did outside of track during the quarantine:
There were a lot of movies but I have a thing that I love to do, and it’s building Lego. I built a lot of Lego during the pandemic and I had a good time doing that. I built Old Trafford or the Tower Bridge, the one in London. I also built the Disney castle in the past, as welI as other things like Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche cars.
In Norway, we’ve been able to train very well, so my shape is actually good. I was hoping to get a chance to test myself, so when the opportunity came for Monaco, that was nice. We have a small training group. It’s Amalie Iuel, Elisabeth Slettum, Leif (his coach) and myself. There has been couple of weeks where we had issues with training facilities. Otherwise, we’ve also been able to train outside. Norway started to open up the places we train at quickly, and when the “Bislett Games” announced they would host the “Impossible Games”, they also opened the stadium track for us. I could actually train more than if it was a normal season. Usually, I would be competing. That’s what makes it interesting, to see if that’s a good thing or a bad thing when we approach the meet (Monaco) in August.
On the Herculis EBS Meeting:
This Monaco meet is exactly what we need now because these “Impossible Games” and “Inspiration Games” were really nice at the beginning but people don’t want to see me running 300m hurdles or running distance that are not even official. We can’t just keep on doing these things the whole year. For me, Monaco is the most special meet to come to, because it’s the only thing that we get this year that is normal. That is what I want and I think that it’s also what the spectators want.
On his quarantine:
So, after the indoor season, when I got back around early March, it was just a couple weeks later really when everything kind of started to set into play, this whole thing. So, everything started to close down in Louisiana, the track, the facilities and everything where I was at. I live in Baton Rouge Louisiana, an hour away from where I grew up in Lafayette, where my parents live. Once the college, the university LSU closed down, I moved back with my parents, just to be at home because that’s where most of my friends are, where my family was. So, I moved back with them and just trained in the backyard, where I started. I have like a set-up and stuff and I was pretty much there almost until July, until they started to open some tracks back up. I was there from late March to July.
I was able to stay in somewhat of shape. I mean not in the best form that I think I can be in, of course. But I’m getting there now, after being here and training for a month and a half or so in Sweden. So, I was not in my best form when I got back to competing, I was competing just to get back into things. I knew I was not in a World record shape but it’s getting there. Overall, I’m feeling good. I feel like I’m getting close to where I want to be.
On what he looks forward to:
I want to get out there and compete against everybody and compete against the best. I mean that’s the reason why I do this. I enjoy training but I enjoy training for the fact that I want to get better for the competitions. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, I try to go one meet at the time and right now my sole focus is just on Monaco.
We haven’t had a competition in a long time us together since the indoor season. It’s just going to be fun in itself to go out there and just compete against those guys. As far as height goes, I don’t know, it’s so hard to say right now with the lack of competitions and stuff. The main focus especially for this meet is just going out there and being a competitor because we haven’t competed against each other in quite a while.
On his quarantine:
I spent the quarantine at home in Kapchorwa, Uganda. It was both good and bad. It allowed me to spend more time with my family, but at the same time we are missing the sport so much. I did some gardening at my grand-parents’ house. But mainly, I worked at my school in town. It’s a primary school, and I worked on some renovations there, like painting the walls.
We didn’t have a lot of cases (during the pandemic) in Uganda. About two months ago, the government relaxed the lockdown. At first, we had individual training but we could quickly train in small groups. I honestly really missed competing. It’s something I love doing, it’s in my blood.
On his next goals:
I want to discover the limits, my limits. If you believe in something, anything is possible. Breaking a record was something really difficult, but when you know the right way, it’s not difficult anymore. So, the next challenge is to go chase one or two more World Records. I would be the happiest person in the world.
On his quarantine:
I ended up working on my songs. I also had several birthdays, including mine. And we had to be creative since we couldn’t really go out. I played a lot of video games and a lot of card games too. We would have game nights with some of my training friends.
We probably stayed in our house for about 3 weeks. There wasn’t a lot of time where I wasn’t training or going out. We lost our track for about 6 weeks, so we trained in a park. Even though we weren’t travelling and racing, we were still practicing. When our gym reopened, we still didn’t want to go and expose ourselves to more people than we need to. As of my shape, it’s pretty good. I’m just gonna say that, I’m in really good shape.
On his next goal:
Right now, I’m really just focused on Monaco. I told my coach after the virtual Zürich Diamond League that I really wanted to run a fast time in Monaco. I know it’s going to be a really good track, I know it’s probably going to be wind legal. I want to do everything in my power to make sure that this race is really fast.
On his quarantine:
I used this time to better myself as an individual. To better myself as a son, a boyfriend, a brother. I used this time to grow. I would take time to do things in the house, spend time with my family. I also worked at home. I was just on the phone with Aries Merritt, hanging out and going over some film. I watch film and study some of the greats like Aries Merritt, Liu Xiang, Jason Richardson or Terrence Trammell. It really helps me. And then I finally reached a point where everybody started running again, and I was like “Alright, let me get back out there”.
This year, there is no end goal. Usually, we’d have the Olympics, or the World Championships or the Diamond League Final, so let’s take this time to prepare and get better at what we do. So, I took this time to figure out what works for me or what doesn’t. I’ve had really good practices at the University of Florida. It wasn’t easy though, we trained at the University of Florida track, then after on an open field of grass, and then another field of grass. And we ended up on a public track. After that, one of my training partners tested positive so Coach Holloway gave us two weeks off. Finally, we were recently back at the track. It’s been a lot of ups and downs really.
On his goals:
This work is getting me closer to the Olympic Gold next year. That’s my mentality right now. For Monaco, I didn’t know whether I was going to compete until late, but I’m confident and know that I can put a great race in. Approaching this meet, my mindset is: “You just want to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready”.