Quarantining an athlete from the Olympic classes: a chat with Mattia Camboni


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The Tokyo Olympic Games have been postponed until the summer of 2021. For the athletes who have been chasing this dream for four years, dedicating every minute of this four-year period to achieving this goal, it was a blow. But life goes on, and that of Olympic sailors remains under the banner of training, even harder perhaps, but at home. Not easy for those used to spending more than 300 days a year at sea. But how are the athletes of the Italian national sailing team experiencing this particular situation? We talked about it with Mattia Camboni, class of 1996 from Civitavecchia, a star of the blueRS:X. The 23-year-old already has one Olympics behind him, that of Rio, and was one of the athletes in “odor” of selection for Tokyo. Ranked No. 1 in the world until a few weeks ago, currently ranked No. 3, he is one of the athletes Italy was banking heavily on for a result. We contacted him at his home/gym where he is spending his quarantine based on a lot of sacrifice and training to keep his physical and mental condition high ahead of his return to competitive activity.

Where are you spending your quarantine?

I’m staying at home in the apartment and have turned it into a small gym to keep up with national programs. A gym that is also a bit of a disco, because to work out I like to hear music even loudly to my mother’s delight.

What was your state of mind from February onward, since the epidemic also arrived in Italy?

We windsurf athletes experienced it differently from other Italians because we were in Australia for the world championship. I experienced the most serious part directly, because I returned from Australia on March 2. In Australia we were reading the news but until then we didn’t have the dimension of it, there was talk of some contagion in the north, but we didn’t really understand the seriousness of the situation. Back in Italy, with the arrival of the first deaths, we realized that a real disaster was happening. We had six more days of water releases then quarantine began.

How did you react when you received the news of the Olympics being moved?

It had been talked about for a week, I was not taken by surprise, it was understood within our world that it would be difficult to dispute them, but to hear it was still a blow from a mental point of view. I called the coach and he tried to console me.

What changes with the one-year postponement from a preparation and technical certainty standpoint?

A big one for me. The internal selection continues for another year and a half, so the advantage I have accumulated over the rest of the Italians let’s say goes to zero or at least diminishes, it makes everything more stressful. All the top nations have declared selection to the World Cup in Australia closed; we are continuing until 2021. For me who was ahead in the selection at this time obviously it is difficult, but I don’t let it get me down and I work as hard as always, in fact harder.

What is your typical day in quarantine?

I am pushing even harder than before in practice. The main work I do at home is on the rowing machine, then biking on rollers and a free body circuit dedicated to the muscle part. The weekly program is calibrated to five days of work: two workouts a day for three days where we try to simulate the race pace to bring the heart to maximal efforts, two days (in my case Tuesday and Thursday) where I focus more on muscle forcing for example for the arms with a second part of the day dedicated to muscle loosening. Then Saturday and Sunday relax and recover. The week is tough and recovery is important; the body is asking for it.

How difficult is it for an athlete in the Olympic classes to maintain a proper physical routine?

Very tough from a mental point of view, it’s already tough when you have a motivation like an Olympics a few months away because the physical work wears you down, but when you know it’s going to stretch everything out a year it’s really tough mentally. Otherwise, everything is planned by the national team athletic trainer, plus my personal coach and another technician, who plan all our workouts. Maybe we will race in October, but for now nothing is known for sure, it also depends on the international environment.

How much do you miss going out with your board and what is the absolute thing you miss most?

Of course I miss the board; it is my passion as well as my job. I really miss traveling and training with the whole team. We are not used to being on the ground all this time, and I am very active in normal life so it is a difficult condition. Then of course I miss the normal things for a guy like me, I miss my girlfriend, I miss my friends.

Right now how does Mattia Camboni feel compared to the best windsurfers in the fleet that you might have met in Tokyo?

The first place ranking I had before the world championship is indicative of the results I made, 2019 was really good, especially for the test events in Enoshima (where the Olympic regattas will be held ed.). At the 2020 World Cup in Australia I finished 11th, and in ranking I am now third. I haven’t really found my conditions, I don’t do well in the “blizzard” and I get excited in medium or otherwise mixed wind conditions because I can go hard even in little wind. It was a hostile world championship for us because we came from training in cold places and perhaps with fewer hours of water, while those who moved a month before us to Australia arrived with many more hours than we did. I always did my best between May and August, because the water hours go up and I really get in shape. Physically I am fine, on the board however, the foot has to be built up. But fitness will be needed to be ready for when you get back in the water.

What will be the first thing you do once the quarantine is over

Vacation. Traveling for regattas is work, maybe some people think it’s all good but it’s not so easy. The first thing I want to do is have a nice trip with my girlfriend and my friends. I am a boy and I miss these things.

Mauro Giuffrè




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