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Ugandan Runners Struggle to Train for Tokyo Olympic Games

FILE - Halimah Nakaayi, of Uganda, celebrates as she wins the gold medal in the women's 800 meter final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Sept. 30, 2019.
Ugandan Runners Struggle to Train for Tokyo Olympic Games
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The coronavirus pandemic has some of the world’s top runners struggling to train for the Tokyo Olympics next year. Training areas were closed, and races cancelled, to help protect people from the virus.

In Uganda, runner Halima Nakaayi is doing her best to prepare under the current public health restrictions. She won the gold medal in the 800-meter event at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Qatar.

Uganda’s training areas and sports centers have been closed since March to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. So, Nakaayi’s only choice is to use the open roads in Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

But the 25-year-old runner said training at home is the least of her worries.

Nakaayi told VOA that because of COVID, “all the races were cancelled. And the worry mostly, being a lady, my time in sports is so short. So, I have to use my body — if it’s in position — to deliver good results.”

Nakaayi trains with other runners who are also preparing for the Tokyo Games. They are only permitted to train in small groups so as to follow measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Another Ugandan runner, Winnie Nanyondo, said the coronavirus safety measures and delayed Olympics are on everyone’s minds.

She said, “We have to focus; we have to remain in training. Because, next year is the Olympics. This year, there’s nothing. Just only diamond leagues..."

The Diamond League is a series of sporting events for the world’s top athletes. Most of the competitions have been canceled. However, there is hope one might take place in Monaco this August.

Uganda’s National Council of Sports admits the pandemic has made it more difficult for athletes to keep physically fit and interested in training.

Ismail Dhakaba is a spokesman for the council. "It's been very challenging. Because in an Olympic year is when the athletes are most fit,” he said.

“Now, without the Diamond League happening, it's a very unfortunate situation, for one reason: that that's where they make most of their money."

Ugandan runners hope that restrictions on international competitions can be lifted as soon as possible.

Nakaayi wants to race at the Diamond League in Monaco in August if COVID-19 is under control by then.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Halima Athumani reported on this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

athleten. a person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength

deliverv. to do what you say you will do or what people expect you to do; to produce the promised, wanted, or expected result

fitadj. physically healthy and strong

ladyn. a woman

pandemicn. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world