How Europe’s athletes are making a difference during the COVID-19 outbreak

Malaika Mihambo
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Reigning world and European long jump champion Malaika Mihambo is helping children to stay active from the safety of their own homes

From knitting masks to running backyard marathons, European athletes are doing their bit in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak which is affecting every part of the continent.  

Getting kids active 

Malaika Mihambo is keen for children to stay fit and active while in lockdown so the reigning world and European long jump champion is conducting regular physical education classes targeted specifically for a younger audience. The videos can be watched live on YouTube and then viewed again on demand.

“These are uncertain times. For us athletes, but also for everyone. Even if parents try to keep the general uncertainty away from them - children have fine antennas and still feel something like that. If I can make my small contribution to giving everyday life some structure even during this time, and getting you to be enthusiastic about sport, then I would like to do that.

“Especially in these times, exercise is so important for the children. The hour gives them structure, distracts them, and in the best case scenario they learn something,” she said.

Lending a helping hand

With organised sporting activities in Germany postponed indefinitely, sports clubs across the country are turning their efforts to helping the local communities and those who are most afflicted by the pandemic.

Renowned multi-sport club SV Halle is helping vulnerable residents with their grocery shopping and one of the athletes who is more than happy to play his part is two-time world decathlon medallist Rico Freimuth. “If there is a need, the club will call me,” he told jumpradio.de in a recent interview. “Then I get a shopping list. And then I buy that.”

And while adhering to strict social distancing and hygiene regulations in order to limit the spread of the virus, these visits also serve an important social aspect as well - especially for older people who are often living alone.

“The last time I was with an older man who is single. He just wanted to talk a little bit. I notice that some older people are scared. They think the world is going to end,” said Freimuth.

Being creative 

National hammer record-holder Katerina Safrankova is still training as much as she can under the restrictive conditions in the Czech Republic but she is maximising her spare time by sewing face masks which are currently mandatory in her country.

“These have suddenly become very necessary because in the Czech Republic you have to wear them. However, they cannot be bought in the store or in the pharmacy. Therefore, the only chance was to start sewing them,” said Safrankova.

"Normally I can do 30 per day, then I’m putting the masks out at my garage door and people can take them. People are very polite, they take two per person at most." 

Going the distance

Former British javelin champion and Scottish record-holder James Campbell put out a wager on Twitter. If his wager got more than 10,000 retweets, he would run a marathon in his back garden to raise money for the British National Health Service (NHS).

The tweet elicited more than 23,000 retweets and Campbell kept to his word. He ran up and down the six-metre strip in his garden approximately 7000 times in just over five hours and his endeavours were also streamed live courtesy of Vinco Sport.

"What better way to celebrate my birthday than running up and down my garden for five hours?" he said. Campbell has raised over £27,000 and you can donate here. And if you are in need of an athletics fix, you can also re-watch his marathon effort on demand here.

Every penny matters 

Reigning world indoor long jump champion Ivana Spanovic and her coach Goran Obradovic were among the high profile Serbian sporting personalities to donate money which will ensure that another 3500 tests for the coronavirus can be carried out in Serbia.

“We have to be strong and persistent! I hope that these tests will at least somewhat contribute and help Serbia  to "jump over" the coronavirus,” said Spanovic.