Level playing field? Olympians face training challenge ahead of Tokyo games

  • Watch Kevin Ashford's video report


Athletes have always looked for a competitive edge - through fair means or foul.

Chris Boardman famously powered to Olympic glory on a bike engineered by Norfolk-based Lotus - much to the consternation of his competitors back in Barcelona in 1992.

Since then marginal gains have been embraced by the world of sport. From aerodynamic skinsuits to the latest sports science for training.


  • Watch a video report by sarah Cooper on the work that goes into engineering a skin suit


It all could help eek out a few thousandths of a second which could mean the difference between Gold or last place.

Of course in more recent times the focus has been on those who've used chemical assistance to gain success

But now there's a new concern among those hoping to stand at the top of the podium in Tokyo this summer - access to training facilities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many athletes having to 'make do and mend' with gyms at home, rather than the professional facilities they would normally prepare in.

Hannah Martin's home gym Credit: Hannah Martin

Hockey star Hannah Martin from Ipswich is one of those athletes. She's hoping to win a medal with Team GB in what will be her first Olympics. She says training during a pandemic hasn't been easy.

During lockdown one it was definitely more on our own since July we’ve been back in a centralise squad so that’s been fantastic, so yes there are challenges around it but ultimately we still feel entirely comfortable with our build up preparation and we’re doing absolutely Everything we possibly can in our control to keep focused on our training for the games

Hannah Martin

Norfolk swimmer Jessica Jane Applegate is a veteran of the summer games. Tokyo will be her third Paralympics.

The swimmer from Great Yarmouth has only just got back into a full-sized pool for training because of the pandemic - she's been using a loaned jacuzzi for her training.

The Paralympian has been swimming in a loaned jacuzzi

It's made a massive difference especially to my mental health more than anything else. One of the biggest reasons I swam was just to take my mind off everything else that's going on in the world so it's been amazing just to be able to get out here and get my hour of peace a day, just to take my mind off of everything else

Jessica Jane Applegate

But there have been fears expressed that those differences might give some countries an unfair advantage over others and that the Games in Tokyo might not take place on a totally level playing field. Rebecca Adlington knows what it's like to prepare to compete at the highest level and she says Tokyo is full of unknowns.

I think it's one of those where it's hard to tell because how do we know how every country has been adapting. You'd like to think with the top, top athletes at the top level, it's going to be fair. Where it falls unfair is where it's those that are up and coming and kind of lower down and haven't had the same support.

Rebecca Adlington

The Olympic Games governing body has acknowledged preparations by athletes will have been different in different countries because of the pandemic It says

IOC statement


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