Relaxed Holland slowing down the pace during lockdown

Triathlete Vicky Holland is making the most of the enforced break posed by lockdown - in fact, by the end of it she may be a green-fingered, master baker who is fluent in French.

With the Olympic Games postponed until 2021 and most of the world stuck indoors to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of elite athletes have been turned upside down just as much as everybody else's.

A hard winter of training all but going to waste could be seen a crushing blow but Holland - who became the first British female to win an Olympic triathlon medal with bronze at Rio 2016 - has found the positives in the situation.

“It has meant I can take my foot off the gas a bit,” explained the 34-year-old, who lives just outside Bath with her fiancée and triathlon coach Rhys Davey, as well as their dog Winnie.

“My approach is to be 100 per cent ready for the Olympics and as much as you can physically be ready, you need to be ready mentally to take on the challenge and the gruelling build-up.

“So, I’m using this as down-time and I’ve almost welcomed the slowing down in pace of my life. I’m taking the opportunity to do some other things – a bit more cooking, a bit of baking and I’m learning French. I am also watching a lot of Netflix, of course!

“My garden is somewhere I’ve never been able to spend a huge amount of time but now we’re going out there most days, digging things up, hedge-trimming, chopping trees and goodness knows what!

“We’re making our own little adventure and we’re very lucky to be able to do that.

“I’ve written a loose structure for each week which includes things like ‘I’m going to run six times, ride my bike two or three times and do a home strength session twice’.

“But it has also got ‘I want to do half an hour of online French each day’ or ‘I want to bake twice a week’ but no more than that because otherwise we’ll get really fat!”

“It has been a little look ahead to what life might be like once I’ve retired from elite triathlon.”

By her own admission, Holland’s winter training “had gone perfectly” and that was borne out with an impressive victory at the Mooloolaba World Cup in Australia on March 14, despite a winter focus on the bike and swim meaning she had done limited running work in the build-up.

However, that race was something of a last hurrah for triathlon and sport in general before everything changed remarkably quickly.

“I knew when I raced in Mooloolaba that it would be the last race for a while,” said Holland. “I remember being on the start line saying to the other girls around me ‘we might not get to do this again for a long time, so let’s make the most of it.’

“But I didn’t realise that I would be catching a flight home from Australia 48 hours later and then less than a week after getting home, we’d be into full lockdown.

“To win in Mooloolaba was a bit of a surprise but a nice confidence booster. I knew I was fit and I knew I’d put in a good block of training but it was still a surprise.

“While racing, I was thinking ‘you’ve got to enjoy this, Vicky’.”

Once the world does come out of lockdown, Holland will have to rejoin the path to getting herself into peak condition for the Olympic Games.

It’s a prospect she admits she isn’t entirely relishing but at 34 years old, if Tokyo proves to be her final shot at Olympic glory then she will give it everything she’s got.

“By the time the decision was announced to postpone the Olympics until 2021, it was a bit of a relief – trying to train fully in these circumstances would have been incredibly stressful,” added Holland.

“But that was tinged with a bit of disappointment because I knew what I had to do this winter to make sure I was in peak shape come the summer and I did.

“It wasn’t easy but I did it and I was very tired for months – so the fact I’ve got to do it again next winter is going to be hard.

“I approached this winter knowing it would possibly be my last big winter. That’s not me saying I will retire once the Olympics are done but my intensity and attitude to it will change slightly as I look to transition out of sport at some point.

“This was the last big push I was building up for, so that’s why I’m making the most of enjoying some other things in my life at the moment because now I’ve got another year I wasn’t expecting to be full gas in triathlon coming up.

“But I’ve done it once and I’ll do it again! That’s why it’s so important I’m mentally ready when we get to that point.”