May 5, 2020 / 7:01 PM / 2 months ago

Judo skills help Olympic champion through lockdown

ROME (Reuters) - Patience is a key element of judo and for Olympic champion Fabio Basile it is a virtue which has served him well over the last few weeks in Europe’s longest lockdown.

Italian judo gold medalist Fabio Basile trains at an Olympic centre near Rome after Italy allowed for athletes to train individually as the country begins a gradual end to its strict lockdown restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Until a few weeks ago, Basile was confident about his preparations to defend the 66-kilo Olympic gold medal he won four years ago in Rio de Janeiro.

Yet the COVID-19 pandemic, which led Italy to enter an eight-week lockdown and caused the Tokyo Games to be postponed for one year, forced him to put his preparations on hold and he was only able to resume intense training sessions this week.

“I learnt about the postponement of the Olympics here at the Olympic centre,” he told Reuters during a training session. “I remember it as if it was today.

“I cannot say that it was nice news to hear, because I was in very good shape; I had just a won a Grand Prix in Tel Aviv. I could feel that I was starting to build up the same kind of energy that I felt before the last Olympics, but now I think it’s better this way.

“The health of world’s population is more important - the Olympics can wait. I think that if you are number one in the world, you are number one today, in July 2020 and you will also be number one in 2021, no problem.”

Italy is still far from normality. At the Olympic centre near Rome, where Basile was training, there would normally be around 100 athletes practising judo, karate and wrestling. On Tuesday, Basile was the only one.

“I obviously thought about it and I hoped until the last moment that the Olympic Games would not be postponed. But again, this is not an easy situation,” he said.

“There have been deaths and this is not a game. We all need patience, and judo teaches that as well, patience. Calm is the virtue of the strong.”

Judo also taught him how to confront his fears, he said.

“The first thing that judo taught me when I was a child, I was about six or seven-years-old, was precisely: how to face my fears,” he said.

“Fear is a feeling that prevents us humans from doing many things that we would like to do. It paralyses us, it imprisons us. Now is a time to be courageous. We must go forward and be positive — that’s it.”

Additional reporting by Emily Roe; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis

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