Athletics after the corona break: the long walk

taz series Summer Games (14): Carl Dohmann and Nathaniel Seiler are training partners. The road to Tokyo has become longer. They continue to walk it.

He goes and goes: Carl Dohmann at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London Photo: Chai von der Laage/imago

Of course, Carl Dohmann and Nathaniel Seiler are also following the discussions that have recently increased again about the Games being postponed to next year, including the anxious question of whether the Olympics will at least be able to take place in 2021. But the two walkers don’t want to let the topic get too close to them. "Going crazy now about what will be in a year’s time makes no sense," says Dohmann, 30, who finished seventh in the 50-kilometer event at the 2019 World Championships in Doha. "I’m preparing for the Games as normal. When they take place and I’m there, it’s great," says Seiler, who is five years younger and finished eighth at the European Championships in Berlin two years ago.

That sounds detached, almost undercooled, after all, it’s the Olympic Games that the two are talking about. On the other hand, it’s probably the only way for a top athlete not to despair of this damned virus and its effects on the world of sports as well. What’s more, the attitude of the two top runners is almost typical of endurance athletes. After all, during the roughly four hours they need to cover the 50 kilometers, their special distance, the unexpected almost always happens.

It’s perfectly normal for highs to alternate with lows. You automatically learn to adapt to circumstances and make the best of them. Just as it is part of walking not to complain. Walkers, even if it may seem otherwise, are tough guys.

Of course: Dohmann and Seiler were also deeply disappointed when they learned of the cancellation of the Games this summer. It also briefly pulled the rug out from under them, on which they had already walked thousands of kilometers again in preparation for the Olympic season, much of it in two training camps totaling five weeks in South Africa at the beginning of the year. On the other hand, common sense also quickly prevailed with them and the realization that you can’t and shouldn’t host the Olympics at any price. "It wouldn’t have been a nice Games," Seiler is certain. Dohmann nods his head in agreement.

Honey and homepage

2020 is an Olympic year. But the Tokyo Games have been postponed to next year due to a pandemic. Nevertheless, training and sports will still take place this year. There is swimming, fencing, running, wrestling and jumping. The taz’s physical education editorial team is devoting a focus to the special challenges of Olympic sports in Corona’s time.

Together with their coach Robert Ihly, once a world-class runner himself, the two athletes from Baden, who usually train together in Freiburg, have decided to take a break from training for the time being. Dohmann, who is currently building up a career as a freelance journalist, has finally put a long-held plan into action and added all kinds of background information on walking to his website. In the meantime, it has become a real walking primer.

Seiler has helped his father, a hobby beekeeper, with his bees when he wasn’t biking or running through the Black Forest. "This break was good for the head," says Dohmann, who has been a member of the world’s elite for more than five years and has already competed at the Rio Games.

Carl Dohmann, walker

"It’s still training into the unknown."

The two then returned to training at the end of May. They have not yet completed a competition due to lack of opportunity, and the German championships over 50 kilometers in Gleina scheduled for October have also been canceled. Instead, Dohmann and Seiler are now preparing for a competition in the Czech Republic.

It will be over 20 kilometers, less than half the usual distance. Accordingly, they are currently training faster than usual. "It’s quite good for the body to be given new stimuli for a change," Dohmann notes, expressing hope that he will be able to benefit from this increased pace over 50 kilometers later on.

Just keep going

Neither of them knows for sure yet if and how the season will continue, and certainly not what next year will be like. "It’s still training into the unknown," Dohmann says – and it’s not always easy. "Sometimes it’s hard enough to get yourself to train," admits Seiler. Most of the time they succeed; after all, the goal is to be in top shape just in case. Dohmann and Seiler have until May of next year to qualify for the Tokyo Games. The chances that they will be at the Games next summer are not bad at all.

But what if the coronavirus throws a wrench in their plans again and what the two don’t even want to think about today actually happens? "I will definitely continue. I want to be at the Olympics one day," says Nathaniel Seiler. Training partner Dohmann is also not thinking about quitting. "At 30, I haven’t yet passed the walker’s zenith," he says, for one thing. For another, he still has a score to settle with the Olympics: In Rio four years ago, he didn’t finish.