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Gymnastics in the time of Covid-19 pandemic

Rituraj Borkakoty/Dubai
Filed on June 25, 2020
Aspire Gymnastics Dubai reopened their facilities on May 28 with all safety protocols in place (Supplied photo)

With Dubai easing the Covid-19 restriction, many sports academy in the city have reopened their doors to allow the rising athletes to hone their athletic skills again.

One such sports academy is the Aspire Gymnastics Dubai. Founded by former Belgian judoka Elke Vinck in 2014, the Aspire Gymnastics Dubai has been the bedrock of the city's twinkle-toed stars.

The coronavirus pandemic did throw a spanner in their works, but now the Dubai Sports Council's green light has set the ball rolling, allowing them to train their students with all safety protocols in place.

"We are very excited that we are now able to welcome back our gymnasts. Aspire Gymnastics club is a place where gymnasts belong and it was heartbreaking to see the facility and our gymnastics equipment not being used," Vinck, the mother of five, told Khaleej Times.

"We are extremely grateful to the Dubai Sports Council for understanding the importance of sport and physical activity and their efforts in restarting sporting activities for everyone in the community. Being able to welcome our gymnasts, to work on their skills, their strength and even more their general well-being is the finest feeling we have had in the past three months."

The academy, which operates from two sports facilities - one in Dubai Investment Park 2 and one in Al Mizhar - resumed their training sessions on May 28.

"This was a very slow restart as at that point only gymnasts aged 12 and above as well as our adult gymnasts were allowed to join the classes," Vinck said.

"Gymnastics requires peaking at a very young age so most of our participants are children aged below 12 years. We initially started our classes at less than five per cent of our normal capacity.

"We considered this period very valuable as the fact we had less trainees was a great training period for our staff, ideal to get used to the new operational protocol such as how to maintain the social distancing during warm up, how to set up stations, entering the facility, exiting the facility by using a different exit.

"Our staff has an additional responsibility, requiring them to be vigilant and assist in the further prevention of this pandemic, therefore they have to remain alert throughout the whole training session and continuously remind our gymnasts about the importance of sanitisation, social distancing and wearing a face mask.

"Then on June 19, we got the green light for restarting our classes for children aged below 12 years. This decision allows us to reach out to our full community. We started with a very limited selection of gymnasts but the number of participants is growing."

As a safety measure, wearing a face mask is mandatory for gymnasts above six years of age at the academy, unless of course, the activity is very strenuous and the mask is hampering safe performance.

Gymnastics in the time of Covid-19 pandemic (KT24462625.JPG)

Mr Popa (centre), co-owner of Aspire Gymnastics Dubai; Madalina (left) head coach of the academy and Elke Vinck, founder of the academy 

"Also, we no longer share gymnastics chalk (previously the club provided chalk for all gymnasts to share from chalk stations throughout the gymnasium), nowadays our gymnasts have a personalised chalk block available," she said.

"Now we have clearly marked waiting areas in our facility, so our gymnasts know where to wait their turn when one of their teammates is on an apparatus.

"Our spectators viewing gallery is closed and we do not currently allow parents to sit and watch the classes."

The academy, which follows the New USA Junior Olympic Compulsory Programme for 2013-2020, regularly sent their teams abroad for international tournaments until the pandemic brought sporting events to a standstill.

Now Vinck is hoping to send her gymnasts for international events again once the world brings the Covid-19 to its knees.

"Last year we attended a tournament in Serbia, one in Belgium and one in Malta," she said.

"Unfortunately, this year we only had the chance to participate in Serbia as the other two tournaments were cancelled.

"Nevertheless, we have started to work hard and are setting new goals for future national and international events."


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