Skip to content
Jan 9 21

IOC’s Dick Pound still confident Olympic Games will happen

by ZwemZa

IOC member Dick Pound.(Bernat Armangue/AP)

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound made headlines this week when he told the BBC he “can’t be certain” the Olympic Games will go ahead as planned in 2021 in the wake of rising COVID-19 numbers.

The Canadian clarified Friday during an appearance on Writers Bloc that his confidence level in the Games taking place in Japan this year remains “very high” and that he was merely pointing out the fact there is no certainty with the ongoing pandemic.

“I’m confident that the organizers have done everything possible to make sure that it’ll go smoothly, but who knows what the virus will decide,” Pound said. “So, I’d say I’m three-to-one confident that things will go on.”

Pound said he thought Japan’s decision to declare a state of emergency on Thursday for Tokyo and surrounding prefectures was “a very smart thing” and “timely” because “we’ve still got several months to go and let’s get a grip on the spreading of the virus.”

If the Games manage to begin as currently scheduled on July 23, one question that has arisen is whether or not any spectators will be allowed at certain events.

“Japan will have to decide what access it grants to people from foreign countries and of course the last few months it has essentially shut itself off from that travel, as have other countries,” Pound explained. “They certainly know that the Olympics in Tokyo are not a Japanese event to which a few strangers are invited – it’s a world event that they’re hosting and they’ve got to make sure the conditions for people to come and participate and spectate to the extent you can have spectators.”

The Olympics were originally supposed to take place in 2020 but were postponed due to the pandemic. The IOC has stated if these Games require further postponement they would, unfortunately, be cancelled instead.

“After 18 months of this grind of the pandemic that’s got everybody down, we need some good news stories for the world and what’s a better good news story than 206 countries, 11,000 athletes coming together, celebrating these games and saying, ‘We can overcome these challenges and here’s an example of how it’s done,’” Pound added. “That kind of a message is much-needed by the world at large.”

With files from The Associated Press

Jan 8 21

aQuellé Midmar Mile moved to March

by ZwemZa

In light of the current second wave of Covid-19 infections, the aQuellé Midmar Mile race committee has made the decision to move the event out by one month to 13 & 14 March 2021.

The committee is aware of the inconvenience that moving the event may cause to some entrants, however the need to ensure the safety of our participants and their extended families must take priority in these challenging times.

“Safety is always the highest priority at the aQuellé Midmar Mile,” said Race Director Wayne Riddin, “and this year we obviously have many additional considerations with regard to Covid-19 and minimising the risk of transmission at events. We are also respectful of the pressure that hospitals and medical staff are under at this time. Time on duty plus the possibility of a medical emergency at the event would only place further demands on medical staff which we would all agree is not necessary.”

Riddin added that “current regulations do not allow for swimmers to train in open water, and many are struggling to find a pool while dams, rivers and beaches remain closed to swimming. The postponement to 13 & 14 March will give entrants extra time to prepare for what will be the 48th Midmar Mile.”

Together with input from representatives from KZN Wildlife and the safety committee, the race committee is investigating the feasibility of holding the events over more than two days. Should this be both practical and provide an extra safety element, decisions will be taken swiftly and communicated immediately.

“All decisions will be taken in line with regulations in place and ultimately to reduce risk to all participants,” said Riddin. “We cannot become complacent within the current situation. The 2021 aQuellé Midmar Mile will be a very different event to previous years, but we are confident we can deliver a safe event space for participants to enjoy one of the highlights in their swimming calendar. We feel taking this decision now is best for everyone involved as we plan the detail over the next few weeks.”

Depending on President Ramaphosa’s next announcement and the level of lockdown, some further changes may still need to be made, including the possibility of holding the event even later on in the year.

Supplied by Midmar Mile

Jan 7 21

State of emergency declared in Tokyo and three other prefectures to reduce COVID-19 infection rate

by ZwemZa

Yoshihide Suga celebrates after winning the leadership election ©Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other prefectures in an attempt to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The measure, which will come into force tomorrow, will be in place in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba and will remain until at least February 7.

It comes as Tokyo reported a record 2,447 daily cases of COVID-19 today, shattering the previous high of 1,591.

Under the new restrictions, people in the affected areas will be asked to stay at home after 8pm, while restaurants, pubs and cafes which serve alcohol will close at that time.

According to Kyodo News, gyms, department stores and entertainment facilities will also be subject to limited hours, but schools will remain open.

Those who fail to comply with the restrictions will not face any form of punishment in contrast to the harsher lockdowns that have been enforced in other countries because of fears over new variants of coronavirus.

Critics have claimed Suga, who took over from Shinzō Abe as Prime Minister in September, has been too slow to enforce a state of emergency amid concern following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the country.

The latest restrictions are also softer than those imposed by Abe when he declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic on April 7 last year – two weeks after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were postponed until 2021.

Several nations have been forced to increase restrictions following the detection of new variants of coronavirus which are considered to be more transmissible.

The variants have led to a surge in the number of cases in multiple countries.

The 501.V2 variant of the virus – thought to be 70 per cent more transmissible – has been detected in Japan, which prompted the nation to shut its border to foreign travellers until at least the end of January, and elite athletes are no longer exempt from the travel restrictions.

In an address to mark the start of 2021, Suga vowed to hold a “safe and secure” Olympics in 2021 despite rising concern over the infection rate.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has also insisted Tokyo 2020 will go ahead in the event’s rescheduled slot this year.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympics due to follow from August 24 to September 5.

A host of COVID-19 countermeasures, such as frequent testing and reducing the stay of competitors at the Athletes’ Village, will be in place should the Games take place.

Athletes could also be vaccinated to ensure the Games can be held safely.

Liam Morgan | Inside the Games

Jan 7 21

Future excites swimmer Mjimba

by ZwemZa

Nomvula Mjimba (Facebook)

As she prepares to move to university in the United States, Nomvula Mjimba hopes to continue taking up new challenges with her swimming dream and is aiming to get a World Short Course time.

The competition was moved from last December to this year.

The biannual event is expected to take place from December 13 to 18 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Mjimba, who has been in South Africa for the past few years for school at The Wykeham Collegiate, is back in the country preparing for university life.

One of her goals is to make the World Short Course and also try her luck for the Olympics rescheduled for July 23 to August 8.

“My New Year resolution is to focus more on mental health and physical health. In 2021, I hope to train well in order to try and achieve a World Short Course time and work towards an Olympic B qualifying time.

“I am preparing to leave for the United States of America in August for university and college swimming. I am really excited to meet new people, further my education and be part of the college swimming,” said Mjimba.

Mjimba, could not reveal the name of the university she will be joining as she is still in the process of finalising the paperwork.

The promising swimmer has represented the country at different levels, including the 2019 African Games in Morocco.

Last year she was part of the team that finished tops at the CANA Zone IV Championships in Botswana. The championships featured more than 10 countries.

“I believe my stay in South Africa impacted me as a whole. I was able to grow as an individual and as a swimmer. Being in South Africa allowed me to experience a whole new structure of swimming that was different from what I had experienced in Zimbabwe. This helped me improve in swimming.

“South Africa definitely has more swimmers and lots more elite athletes, better facilities and more opportunities compared to Zimbabwe. These factors amplify the level of competition in South Africa. However, Zimbabwe’s level of competition continues to improve,” Mjimba said.

While the past year was unpredictable and a bit tough for most people, the 18-year-old believes it has made her stronger and looks into the future with a positive attitude.

“2020 was a year of many challenges but I believe these challenges have made us stronger .The biggest challenge I faced in 2020 was trying to complete my matric year online. I struggled to adjust from face-to-face lessons to online lessons.

“As matrics, we missed many of the final moments of high school and that was disappointing. However, due to Covid-19 I was able to focus more on school and trying to complete matric to the best of my ability and I was in the water here and there to maintain fitness,” she said.

With limited time in the pool last year due to school commitment, Mjimba is aware of the work she has to put in to fulfil her targets.

Read the original article on The Herald.

Jan 7 21

Olympic swimmer Brandt welcomes Rhine-Ruhr bid for 2025 World University Games

by ZwemZa

Dorothea Brandt, head of swimming at adh, competed at Athens 2004 and Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

Olympic swimmer Dorothea Brandt has backed the Rhine-Ruhr bid to host the summer International University Sports Federation (FISU) World University Games in 2025.

The multiple-time German champion believes her home country can be “fantastic” hosts in four years’ time as Germany looks to stage the Games for the first time since 1989.

The German University Sports Federation (adh) is behind the Rhine-Ruhr bid, which is waiting to gain formal approval from the country’s Government.

Brandt competed in two editions of the Summer Universiade and represented her country at Athens 2004 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The 36-year-old is now head of swimming at adh and believes staging FISU’s flagship event in 2025 would be a huge benefit to student-athletes.

Asked why the adh should apply to host the Games, Brandt said: “Because we are a fantastic host and we can remind you again how great big multi-sport events are.

“Sport brings people together and leave great memories.

“The Universiade, with its very own, open and relaxed character, is predestined for this.

“Popular and recreational sport is the foundation of competitive sport.

“Without it, it is not possible to get to the top.

“It’s similar to university sports.

“With the Summer Universiade, we can show that the universities do more than just study.

“Athletes who start for Germany in 2025 will sit in the lectures and seminars just like everyone else.

“I think it can be very motivating when you write a term paper with someone who then goes to training and wins a medal at the Universiade.”

Brandt racked up 28 national titles and won 14 medals at the European Short Course Swimming Championships during her career.

She also fondly remembers clinching silver at the 2009 Summer Universiade in Serbian capital Belgrade.

“It was an incredibly tough season and I had actually planned on the World Cup in Rome,” said Brandt.

“I missed it and so Belgrade was suddenly my season highlight.

“I sat on the plane with a bad cold and after missing the qualification for the World Cup, I didn’t really feel like swimming another competition.

“But when I got there, I was right back inside.

“The village, the pool and the whole organisation had their own charm.

“Despite my late arrival I was welcomed by the adh team.

“It gave me so much energy that despite a headache and sore throat, I was quick and came in second.

“What stuck in my mind most intensely was this rapid change from displeasure and discomfort to full focus on the race.

“That left a lasting mark on me and continues to influence my everyday life and my work to this day.”

Beach volleyball, rowing and 3×3 basketball have been chosen as optional sports for the Rhine-Ruhr bid.

The 15 compulsory sports are archery, artistic gymnastics, athletics, badminton, basketball, diving, fencing, judo, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, taekwondo, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and water polo.

Duisburg, which hosted the Summer Universiade in 1989 and the 2005 World Games, is one of the main hubs of the German bid for the 2025 event.

Other cities which would be involved include Düsseldorf, Essen, Bochum and Krefeld.

Hungarian capital Budapest has also expressed interest in bidding for the 2025 World University Games.

Geoff Berkeley | Inside the Games

Jan 6 21

Pound claims prioritising athletes for COVID-19 vaccine is “most realistic way” of staging Tokyo 2020

by ZwemZa

There have been fresh concerns about the staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year after the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant ©Getty Images

Senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Richard Pound has claimed prioritizing athletes for the COVID-19 vaccine would be the “most realistic way” of ensuring the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games take place.

Uncertainty remains over whether year’s Olympic and Paralympics in the Japanese capital will go ahead with less than 200 days to go before the event is due to open.

The Games were postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the health crisis seems to have worsened after the discovery of the new variant of the virus, thought to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

Host country Japan is one of the nations to detect the new variant and is now on the cusp of a state of emergency after reporting a record 5,307 daily coronavirus cases today.

There is hope the development of a number of COVID-19 vaccines will allow Tokyo 2020 to take place safely, however, with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine currently being administered in the countries such as the UK and the United States, while it is awaiting approval in Japan.

Pound denied prioritising athletes for the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure the Games go ahead would cause a public outcry.

“In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes – to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that,” Pound told Sky News.

“It’s a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.”

IOC President Thomas Bach has previously encouraged athletes to have a COVID-19 vaccination before Tokyo 2020 but insisted it would not be an entry requirement.

He revealed the IOC was in talks with manufacturers and other health experts but said the organisation would not jump the queue in front of those in greater need of a vaccination.

“We made it clear from the very beginning that the first priorities are for the nurses, medical doctors and everybody who keeps our society alive, despite the coronavirus crisis,” Bach said during a visit to the Tokyo National Stadium in November.

“These are the people who deserve to be the first ones to be vaccinated.”

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympics due to follow from August 24 to September 5.

Organisers plan to have a number of COVID-19 countermeasures in place should the Games go ahead.

Nancy Gillen | Inside the Games

Jan 5 21

Tick-Tock: The Tokyo Olympics hit the 200-days-to-go mark

by ZwemZa

A man looks at a countdown calendar showing 200 day to start Tokyo 2020 Olympics Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in Tokyo. The countdown clock for the postponed Tokyo Olympics hit 200 days to go on Monday. Also on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would consider calling a state of emergency as new coronavirus cases surge to record numbers in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tick-Tock-Tick.

The countdown clock for the postponed Tokyo Olympics hit 200 days to go on Monday.

Tick-Tock-Tick.

Also on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would consider calling a state of emergency as new coronavirus cases surge to record numbers in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. Japan has never had a lockdown for COVID-19, attempting to juggle the economy and health risks.

Tick-Tock-Tick.

It’s nearing deadline time for Tokyo Olympic organizers, the International Olympic Committee, and various Japanese government entities as they try to pull off the Games in the middle of a pandemic.

Officials have promised to announce concrete plans early in the new year about how to get 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes into Japan; about the safety of the Athletes Village, and hundreds of thousands of fans, media, judges, officials, broadcasters and VIPs.

The new year is here.

Suga pledged again to hold the Olympics, saying it would be “proof that people have overcome the coronavirus.” And he said vaccine approval would be speeded up by a month so that vaccinations could begin in February instead of March.

Japan has attributed more than 3,400 deaths to COVID-19, modest by global standards for a country of 125 million, but worrying as new cases rise quickly. A poll last month by national broadcaster NHK show 63% want the Olympics postponed or canceled.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and the governors of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures asked the national government Saturday to declare the state of emergency after the capital saw a daily record of 1,337 new cases on New Year’s Eve. That marked a jump of almost 400 in just a few days.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee and a former prime minister, again ruled out any cancellation of the games in an interview several days ago with the Nikkan Sports newspaper. He was asked when a decision would come about having local fans or fans from abroad.

“Sometime from March through May,” he replied. “The final deadline for a decision would be May, but it may come sooner.”

Any reduction in fans will hit the organizing committee budget. Tokyo has budgeted $800 million for ticket sales, and any shortfall will have to be made up by government entities, which are footing most of the Olympic bills.

The official budget for the Tokyo Olympics was increased last month to $15.4 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion because of the delay. However, several government audits the last few years suggest the real number is about $25 billion.

All but $6.7 billion is public money.

Mori indicated the opening ceremony, scheduled for July 23, could be troublesome with thousands of athletes and officials gathering to parade around the stadium. He also suggested the ceremony couldn’t be shortened, since television broadcasters had paid for the lucrative time. He said some officials might be cut out of the parade.

Television determines much of the Olympic scheduling, and selling broadcast rights accounts for 73% of the IOC’s income. Another 18% is from large sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Toyota.

The torch relay, which begins on March 25, will also face crowding with 10,000 runners expected across almost four months. Coca-Cola and Toyota are the prime sponsors.

Associated Press

Jan 4 21

Suga considering COVID-19 state of emergency with Tokyo 2020 Olympics 200 days away

by ZwemZa

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said the Government is considering a new state of emergency as daily COVID-19 cases remain high with just 200 days to go until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Tokyo today reported 884 new COVID-19 cases, including a record 108 cases considered serious.

According to The Japan Times, Suga is looking at placing Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama under higher restrictions after officials from these prefectures, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, called for a state of emergency to be declared.

The 884 cases reported in Tokyo were the highest recorded on a Monday.

A total of 2,067 tests were conducted on Friday, according to a statement from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The total number of infections in the capital now stands at 63,474.

Japan has recorded more than 246,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Last week was the 14th straight week where the nationwide weekly case total has increased, with the death toll in that period increasing tenfold.

There are now 3,645 reported deaths related to COVID-19 in Japan.

Yesterday’s (January 3) nationwide cases were the lowest since December 29, with 2,942.

Japan reported a record of daily record of more than 4,000 confirmed cases on Friday (January 1).

Osaka and Kanagawa are the prefectures with the most cases to date, while Aichi, Saitama, Hokkaido, Chiba and Hyogo have in excess of 10,000 total cases.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics has yet again reached the 200-days-to-go milestone today, with the Games scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee in March 2020 postponed the Games until 2021.

The recent rise in infections in the host country has fuelled concerns over whether the event will take place in its rescheduled slot.

Michael Houston | Inside the Games

Jan 4 21

The longest 200 days: Tokyo Games organisers continue to face mammoth task

by ZwemZa

For the second time, the countdown to Tokyo 2020 has reached the 200-day mark.Credit:AP

This time last year, as the Olympic countdown clock struck 200 days, athletes around the world were pouring themselves into training and planning every move towards Tokyo as if it were a complex military manoeuvre. Nothing was to be left to chance.

Reports of a contagious virus emerging from China were of no consequence, especially to Olympians whose focus is so necessarily narrow that anything not of use to elevating their performance is discarded. Suffice to say the narrative changed course in a hurry, with the Games postponed until 2021 amid unprecedented use of the word ‘unprecedented’.

On Monday, the Games countdown again reached 200 days but this time, the milestone was greeted with questions, fears, reports of mind-numbing budget blowouts and worrying signs of resentment from an Olympics-weary Japanese public.

And of course, there was the virus. Outside of a few nations, it continues to ravage much of the globe, including major Olympic players in Europe and of course the USA, which has surpassed an astonishing 350,000 deaths. To make matters worse, a new, more infectious version of the disease has taken flight and is spreading like wildfire.

The Tokyo hosts and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have long billed these rebooted Games as the ultimate symbol of humanity’s triumph over the pandemic. With a jaw-dropping and barely comprehensible list of logistical, security and safety issues yet to overcome, they should be content with simply getting them off the ground at all.

“The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held this summer,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a New Year’s message. “We will make steady preparations to realise a safe and secure tournament.”

There is some good news for the IOC in the form of workable vaccines, which are beginning to be rolled out across selected nations. But that alone won’t greatly assist planning, especially given the athletes are highly unlikely to get shortcuts to the front of the queue ahead of frontline health workers, the elderly and those in more at-risk categories. Which is almost everyone.

One thing is clear: these Games won’t look like any we have seen in the past, or with any luck, see again. If there are crowds in the arenas and stadiums, it’s likely they will be Japanese only, which would be a just reward for the nation’s unfortunate Olympic experience but take away some of the partisan atmosphere on which athletes tend to thrive.

Teams could be encouraged to bring the bare bones when it comes to coaches, staff and officials. And the tradition of staying after your event and enjoying the festivities looks impossible, with fly-in, fly-out medal missions almost a certainty as planners try to reduce the number of competitors at any given place and time.

Media contingents will be slashed dramatically, should organisations decide it’s worth sending reporters in the first place. For those on deck, social distancing, masks and stage managed, risk-averse media opportunities will take away so much of the spontaneous colour and movement that makes a Games so unpredictable and memorable.

Yet through it all, a gold medal will still be a gold medal. You don’t have to paint a picture of how it all went down and history still treats Olympic champions (most of them, at least) with a certain reverence. That is why they all strive, many in sports that don’t provide even a fraction of the financial rewards of the mainstream professional tours of leagues.

And on that front, the vast majority of Australian athletes will arrive in Tokyo having benefited from a nation virtually devoid of COVID-19 and with society functioning in relative normality. There are no mass lockdowns – as there are in the UK, for example – and no closures of sports and training facilities.

One of the arguments for abandoning Tokyo 2020 in the first place was the lack of a relative level training field. How could the Games possibly be held when some nations are in virtual shutdown, while others are operating as close to normal as the virus allows?

Two hundred days out, for the second time, the scenario is not too far removed from 12 months ago, although elite sport, in wealthy countries at least, has largely managed to find a way to sustain itself through the restrictions and challenges of pandemic life.

Even with the occasional cluster and flare, Australian athletes can count themselves among the luckiest in the world as they prepare for what is a short skip to Japan in just over six months, a nation in a convenient location and time zone, useful given the chances of a hit-and-run mission to Tokyo.

Barring another Victorian-style outbreak, our swimmers and athletes and cyclists and rowers and sailors will have enjoyed every plausible advantage when it comes to fine-tuning their Olympic preparations. Should they make it count, even the most peculiar Games would be cast on the home front as a triumph of the ages.

Phil Lutton | The Sydney Morning Herald

Jan 3 21

Why a good sleep is new dream for athletes

by ZwemZa

A good night’s kip was seldom rarer than in 2020, when COVID-19 even ravaged the nation’s sleep. As it did so, millions were reminded of how working effectively is harder when sleep-deprived. Without a good seven hours, employees have been found to be markedly less productive.

Elite athletes are the same. Without proper sleep, they become significantly worse at their jobs.

The connection between sleep and performance has been demonstrated across myriad sports. Sleeping for nine hours a night, rather than seven-and-a-half, made tennis players’ serves more accurate. When they slept for 10 hours a night, Stanford University basketball players were nine per cent more accurate in their free-throw shots. If 10 hours seems indulgent, both LeBron James and Roger Federer are said to sleep for 12 hours, with Federer topping up a 10-hour sleep with a two-hour day-time nap.

When athletes do not sleep properly, they are also more likely to suffer illness and injuries. The importance of sleep may be particularly great among young athletes. One study of promising athletes aged 16-19 found that they were 61 per cent more likely to suffer injuries when they did not sleep for eight hours a night.

Yet, for all that a lack of sleep can damage athletes’ physical capabilities, it is even more debilitating to their minds. Leading South African cricketers were recently involved in a study requiring them to complete sleep journals every morning. While poor sleep was found to damage the performance of all players, batsmen particularly suffered. The sheer mental strain of batting for a long period, and the intense concentration required, is heightened without adequate sleep.

In sport and beyond, a disrupted night has been shown to impede someone’s cognitive functions the next day.

Perhaps the biggest evangelist for sleep in sport is American football quarterback Tom Brady, who goes to bed by 9pm each night. “Proper sleep has helped me get to where I am today,” Brady has said. When he is sleeping, “I like it cold and dark like a bear”.

Brady uses a mattress made from micro diamonds, costing several thousand dollars, and ensures that he always goes to bed in a room at optimal temperature for sleep: 15-18C. Such attention to detail is easy to mock. But Brady has a very clear retort: he is still playing in the NFL at the age of 43.

Getting proper sleep is one of the simplest – and cheapest – ways of improving on-field performance. Many of the smartest teams in the world are already recognising as much: Brentford have employed a sleep specialist since 2016; Boston Red Sox, the Major League Baseball side run by Liverpool’s owners, have custom-made bedding in their sleep room.

While many athletes – at youth and professional level alike – do not sleep enough to give themselves the best chance of thriving, sleep is too individual for there to be a set routine that everyone requires. Many leading athletes are devising personalised regimes: working with sleep coach Nick Littlehales, Cristiano Ronaldo is said to have five naps a day.

Working with sleep coach Nick Littlehales, Cristiano Ronaldo is said to have five naps a day.

Couch potatoes the world over rejoice: frequent naps are believed to enhance knowledge retention and performance.

“There is evidence that napping between training sessions in which competing material is learnt protects the motor memory traces against one another,” Genevieve Albouy, an expert in sleep from KU Leuven university, said in The Best: How Elite Athletes are Made.

Sleeping after practice can develop neuroplasticity in the brain, helping to consolidate new knowledge and skills. Athletes who sleep better learn at a faster rate.

As the performance benefits of sleep become clearer, it will increasingly be viewed as one of sport’s new frontiers. The Oura Ring – which tracks a wearer’s sleep patterns, heart rate and respiratory rate – is already used by a growing number of athletes, especially in the United States.

“It breaks down my deep sleep, REM [rapid eye movement] sleep, restfulness, how many times I woke up,” said basketball player Kevin Love, declaring the ring among the 10 things he cannot live without. In the years ahead, a growing number of athletes may come to think the same, even as they lament the new level of invasiveness.

The Daily Telegraph

%d bloggers like this: