When The Going Gets Tough: Coping with The Year of Covid
Nikki Manson Scottish Record Holder at High Jump ( Indoor ) takes time to describe her experience these last months under Covid
Every top athlete’s life is full of ups and downs, but seldom like those experienced in 2020. Here, international high jumper Nikki Manson reveals here how she is managing to stay fit and focused in extraordinarily challenging times, giving open, honest, informative and inspirational answers to questions from her home club, Giffnock North AC.
Overall, how have you coped with Covid restrictions?
“I’m not going to lie, initially I found it very tough. I specifically remember having a bit of a breakdown in the car park by the playing fields in Muirend, my sister (a doctor) was working on the frontline in Manchester so training all just felt very trivial. I rallied after a short period and managed to try make the most of what I had locally to train: Glasgow is a very hilly city, so that was a weekly go–to; I managed to find a set of stairs by the train station and Glasgow City physiotherapy very kindly lent me some weights.
After I managed to take the pressure off things, I was able to find a lot of fun in a slightly more “guerrilla” style training. My strength and conditioning coach and boyfriend Sam and I had to be creative and I think we made good progress in areas which perhaps are often sidelined.
Within the sport I think field events (specifically the vertical jumps) have been impacted disproportionately by the pandemic and although I’ve managed to stay fit, strong and fast over the summer, nothing can quite replicate the impact on the legs of a true high jump take off.
All in all, though, I would say I’ve fared as well as most. It’s been a tough year and one I’ll be happy to see the back of.”
How is training going in the midst of Covid?
“While I’m still far away from what my “normal” training week looks like, I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to gain access to a high jump bed, a decent gym and somewhere dry to run and drill. After such a long time away it’s been a steep learning curve getting back to the technical side of things but I’m starting to find a bit of a groove again.
We’re working hard towards some sort of indoor season. There are some areas of my technique which need adjusted and all in all coach Ray (Bobrownicki) has me focusing on a more professionalised approach (getting enough high–quality sleep, diet, psychology etc).
I’m also very lucky to have Stephen Maguire as my performance manager, he’s really teaching me the nitty gritty of what performance truly is.”
How did it feel to take the Scottish HJ record and now to be the holder?
“I think the best part of breaking the record this year was being able to do it at home, it was so nice to share the record with officials, coaches and team mates I‘ve grown up beside. As they say, “It takes a village” and I’m always aware that behind each and every jump is countless hours of support from the wider community.
Hustopece, in the Czech Republic, in February was the scene of an important moment for me personally too, it was my third year competing there and I certainly had some unfinished business to attend to. (Note: Nikki cleared 1.93 metres at the Hustopece Skeskakani meeting, to claim the Scottish record and lead the UK rankings.)
As proud as I am to be the record holder, in some ways I don’t think about it. It’s a truly great accolade but I still feel like I have potential to fulfil.”
You are always pleased, it seems, to wear the club vest and the club is very proud of you. Can you say something about that?
“I think it’s very important to show where you’ve come from. Regardless of where you are in the world, it’s important to know I’m still the same wee Glaswegian girl doing it for the love of the sport.
I also think it’s important to show that, no matter how good you get, at some point we were all those little kids with the nervous tummy on the start line at an indoor league match.
Last year I updated my club vest, thanks to Clare and Ronnie, and I was initially a bit superstitious that my ten-year-old ‘yellow and blue’ held some kind of special quality that enhanced my jumping legs, but thankfully the new one works just as well!”
What kind of support are you receiving generally and what do you think the club should provide in terms of support to elite athletes like yourself?
“I’m very thankful for my job at the GAA – even though it’s not specific support they’re the ideal employer for an athlete like myself.
I’m lucky enough to be on a programme at the Scottish Institute of Sport which helps a lot with access to facilities, and Scottish athletics have helped support travel to some of my competitions over the last few years.
Scott MacAulay and his team at Glasgow City Physiotherapy have also been a big help in keeping me healthy over the years.
In terms of club support I think it’s a difficult question and possibly needs to be done on an individual basis; personally, I think transitioning/emerging athletes need to be supported in identifying and accessing the right competitions for their development stage. Often it can be made much easier to access these competitions if you’re not asking the meeting manager to cover your travel expenses.”
That said, when you’re in the thick of it even just token gestures help a lot; it doesn’t matter how big you get, it still matters to get recognition from your clan!”
Can you say anything about your plans for 2021?
“The big aim is still the Tokyo Olympics and finally taking that Scottish Outdoor record.
Provided things open up enough, I’m just very keen to throw myself into competition, get overseas, compete and experience as much as I can. That said, I’d also like to compete at the Scottish National Outdoor Championships if they can go ahead. It’s one of my favourite competitions of the year and I’ve missed the SAL family a lot.”
Any messages for the athletes of 2021, who, like you, have experienced a frustrating dearth of competition?
“Have fun! Don’t worry about the seasons or opportunities missed due to the pandemic –they’re gone. Enjoy this time as a chance to work on your weaknesses, explore your strengths and find your love of the sport. Don’t rush to the finish, enjoy the process and your time will come.”
Thanks very much Nikki for another great input. Giffnock North AC appreciates this and all you’ve done to give us training tips during Covid restrictions. All the best from all of us for 2021 and beyond.