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New normal

Eric Buhain

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The world of sports is changing and adapting to the new normal.

I was flipping through my favorite sports channels and by chance, one of my favorite channels, Eurosports, was showing a live broadcast of a virtual cycling event participated by some of the most prominent cyclists in the world.

I found out that the cyclists were using this virtual training application called Zwift, which I also use. Interestingly, this training application had already gone mainstream and is now becoming the new normal of what cycling events would be in the future.

Basically, Zwift takes into consideration the vital real-time data of individual riders like weight, heart rate, power outputs, pedal cadence and interprets them in a game-like virtual world that has inclined and declined features in which it adjusts the tension of the stationary bikes with an attached accessory via Bluetooth technology.

The cyclists can also ride with other riders and meet up in this virtual world any time they want.

But what I saw was different because from what I know, professional riders use Zwift as a training tool. The riders, however, are now using it to compete against each other at the comforts of their respective homes.

First, they were given the same accessories and equipment to connect to the application to even the playing field. They were also given their own avatars with their team jersey designs and while they were racing, the television network asked them to set up live video links to their homes so that spectators, who are all siting at the comforts of their homes, could see them actually riding on their stationary bikes with Zwift application.

It was truly entertaining and if you were an athlete, you would really appreciate the effort of these cyclists because you get to see their real-time effort like heart rates, cadence speed and performance in inclined roads. The race was so competitive that the heart rates of some of them even reached 200 beats per minute.

This got me thinking: If cycling is already doing this as its way of adapting to new normal for social distancing purposes, can other sports also do the same?

Athletics, specifically, could duplicate the same concept at it has a running application that takes into consideration the individual data of runners. Again, competitors would be provided the same exact treadmill and accessory at their own homes and link it to the application so that they can compete.

Sports like archery, shooting, weightlifting, tennis, table tennis, badminton and golf, which normally have some sort of social distancing among participants, can push through their events but without spectators watching.

For tennis, table tennis and badminton, they can limit their events to singles for the meantime.

All of the sports that I mentioned could avail of the normal television broadcast so that spectators could watch from their homes and maintain the same level of intensity and excitement.

Basketball, football and volleyball, which are probably the biggest sports in the world, are the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The monetary loss is probably already in the hundreds of millions to date.

For them, maybe a good suggestion is that they go back to basics.

Just like the very popular NBA All-Star Weekend, where individual skills of the players are being displayed, maybe it would be interesting if they would limit their events to dribbling skills for both basketball and football and free throw shooting instead of an actual game, where physical contact among players is inevitable.

Basically, the goal here is to spark interests from fans and, at the same time, display the skill level of these athletes until situation normalizes.

For my sport, swimming, I think we are very lucky because the pool is chlorinated in which the virus couldn’t survive. All we need is to assure the competitors that the chlorine and acid level are safe and at the standard level.

Social distancing is also not a problem as traditional pools are already equipped with lanes where swimmers can race. We just have to limit the number of competitors to be able to maintain social distancing.

Basically, what is happening in sports today is a signal that it is adapting to the changing world. More importantly, it is telling us that we should not lose hope because we will all be out there sooner than we think to enjoy the sport we love on a slightly tweaked version.

Welcome to the new normal.

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