The 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Morocco’s taekwondo athletes are already preparing for 2021 from home.
Rabat – As the global COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of slowing down, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo decided today, March 24, to reschedule the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“To safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” Bach and Shinzo agreed, the Games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021.”
The two leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand “as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”
A lesson in adaptation from Morocco’s TKD team
Adapting to the new atmosphere, Morocco’s national TKD team has commenced remote coaching sessions through WhatsApp video calls.
The three athletes who will represent Morocco in the Olympics, Oumaima El Bouchti, Nada Laaraj, and Achraf Mahboubi, have been training from home under the supervision of the Royal Moroccan Federation of Taekwondo (FRMTK) and the head of its technical department.
Coach David Sicot has insisted on the Moroccan TKD athletes continuing to prepare for the Olympics despite the countrywide lockdown and the postponement of the Games.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Moroccan TKD athletes were set to train in France, Norway, England, and Japan, in addition to their home country.
After FRMTK canceled all local and international training sessions to preserve the health of the athletes, the technical department had to find means to maintain the fighters’ physical fitness, Sicot told Morocco World News (MWN).
Sicot launched remote coaching sessions on March 16, using WhatsApp to hold video calls with the three Moroccan athletes. Sicot holds two sessions a day, including a physical condition session in the morning and a technical session in the evening, he explained to MWN.
“The challenging part is that Taekwondo fighters need partners for their training to hold the target pads, which is less effective at home than the gym,” Sicot added.
“Now that Japan has decided to postpone the Olympics to 2021, the priority today is to win over this virus,” Sicot maintained.
Staying motivated under lockdown
Moroccan TKD athlete Achraf Mahboubi, who qualified for the 2020 Olympics in the 80-kilogram weight class, urged his countrymen to abide by the state of emergency lockdown no matter how difficult it may be.
“I strongly advise the youth to stay home with their parents in order to limit to the spread of the virus,” he said to MWN.
“At the moment I’m training at home, which is certainly a complicated task, but I find the opportunity to work on my weaknesses,” Mahboubi continued.
“I tell myself that within a month I will be stronger than ever before. It is this mindset that keeps me motivated.”
The Moroccan athletes guaranteed their spots in Tokyo after winning in the semi-finals of the African Taekwondo Olympics Qualifiers, which took place at the Moulay Abdellah Complex in Rabat from February 22 to 24.
Mahboubi qualified for the Games after beating Faysal Sawadogo from Burkina Faso.
“Four years ago, I remember watching the Olympics on television as a kid. Today I achieved the dream of athletes from all over the world,” he said in an emotional speech after the win.
His national teammates Nada Laaraj and Oumami El Bouchti won their qualifying matches for the 57- and 49-kilogram weight classes, respectively, during the same competition.