Mireia Belmonte is back to full training at the High Performance Center of Sant Cugat (Barcelona), where she returned to the water on May 18. That was the day that the Spanish government decided to open the national High Performance Centers (CAR) after two months closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Spanish Olympic champion participated in an an online interview for the program “Objetivo Tokio” on the Spanish television channel Teledeporte. The interview, conducted by Amat Carceller and Julia Luna, focuses on Mireia’s plans to prepare the Olympics and to regain the shape and strength lost during quarantine. Moreover, she spoke about the possibility of being the flag bearer of the Spanish Olympic team at the opening ceremony.
After 66 days without a pool to train, was it harder to activate your mind or your body? Did you prepare yourself mentally for that first contact with the water?
“Both were difficult, the body is more difficult because we have not trained it in the water for a long time and it is always harder to start it up. During the confinement we have done a lot of core, a lot of abs and a lot of cardio exercises, and we have also done visualization exercises, for example imagining our best race in the water, so when we jump into the water we are mentally more used to it.”
Doing 2 training sessions a day, you will regain the shape really fast, right?
“We have not been swimming for a long time, and as you say we are doing a double session in the morning and afternoon in the water to get back in shape, but the process will take a long time. Now we have in mind Tokyo and we want to move forward little by little and day by day.”
From the training group of Fred Vergnoux, at the moment you are the only one training at the CAR in Sant Cugat, where you share experience with the group from the Sant Andreu Club…
“Actually no, the three swimmers from Fred’s group that are in the national team are already training in Sant Cugat.”
The coaches say it will take 7-9 months to regain the shape and strength that you had before the break…
“Every week without swimming is very difficult to recover, and it has been 9 weeks so it will be a long journey, we have to be patient and know that it is not a matter of a day, we have to regain the contact with the water, and also the endurance and speed, and for that we need a lot of training.”
This year is very different to others because all competitions have been suspended. You will face the Olympic preparation without competitive sensations, a new circumstance…
“It is strange to train not knowing for what competition, we train for Tokyo, but until that moment there is still more that one year left. There are no important competitions in sight where you can measure your training moment, we have to see how we plan the year and see what competitions are presented to us next year.”
How do you see your classic rivals, Kapas, Hosszu, Hentke …? I wanted to ask you about the likely return of Maddie Groves after undergoing surgery, and if you can consider Regan Smith a rival, who has swum the 200m butterfly in 2:06 this year.
“What I do know is that many of my rivals have trained during the confinement because their countries have allowed it. But now all swimmers in the world are in the same position, we have no competitions in sight, so I think now we can only train hard and when the season starts,have a look at the world ranking and see which are the most dangerous rivals.”
Do you think that for the Games to be held without health problems, a vaccine is needed?
“The vaccine would give safety to the athletes and the entire population. This way we could go safer to an Olympic village with many athletes and a big audience, where we don’t know the chances of getting infected.”
Your coach Fred Vergnoux says that if you go to Tokyo you will do something great…
“That is the main objective, to go to Tokyo and be on top of the podium. But there is still a long way to go and everything is unclear. We have to see the planning of the season and see how the situation evolves and how we can train. Let’s see if we can compete outside of Spain and follow a calendar as normal as possible.”
In Tokyo you will start the competition with the 400 IM and then with the 400 free. There is a day with two finals: the 200 IM and the 1500 free. Are you going to prioritize one over the other or are you going for all of them?
“One more day of competition has been added and also one more event. The competition schedule is more or less the same. I will go event by event and I will swim as many events as possible because that way I have many more chances and my training plan allows me to do it.”
After the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, swimming starts the next day. Does the schedule let you to think of being the protagonist of that opening ceremony?
“We are lucky that the finals will take place in the mornings, so swimming would start on the first day but in the afternoon.”
The competition schedule will let you be at the opening ceremony and the IOC allows both a man and a woman to be the flag bearers. For historical honors, Saúl Craviotto and Mireia have to be the flag bearers…
“I am delighted, it would be a great honor to carry the flag of my country, it is the highest honor that an Olympic athlete can achieve, and I have not been able to attend any opening ceremony in my past three Olympic Games. But it is the Olympic Committee who has to come to a decision and they have the last word.”
You were preparing the same training plan and competitions that you did for Rio also for Tokyo. You have spent New Year’s Eve in South Africa at high altitude. Are you still going to reproduce the road to Rio again?
“At the moment we don’t know anything, we don’t know if we are going to be able to travel or if we can move from the CAR. We will have to adapt to how everything evolves. At the moment, at least we have a pool to train in and we have to focus on training the best that we can.”