THE GB Boxing gym re-opens this week after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the facility at the English Institute of Sport. The Olympic squad is permitted to return after the government updated their guidelines for elite sport which encompasses professional boxers and the GB team. But they will do so under significant restrictions. Initially only 12 boxers will be brought back to the set up in Sheffield and their training will be limited to running, strength and conditioning and their boxing training will consist of shadowboxing and bagwork. They will not be allowed to spar or do padwork.

“In May the government published its stage one return to training guidelines for elite sports and we have been working through this to a point where we are now able to allow a limited number of boxers and coaches to come back into the GB Boxing gym under strict social distancing guidelines,” GB Boxing chief executive Matt Holt explained.

“This has been a big piece of work and we have put a series of measures in place in a number of areas covering hygiene throughout the training and living environment; the provision of medical support, screening and monitoring; a reconfiguring of the boxing gym and the design and content of the boxers’ training programme and how it will be delivered.

“We have also spent a lot of time talking to the boxers to provide them with guidance on this new way of operating and ensuring they are comfortable with it and aware of their responsibilities in terms of hygiene and social distancing in the gym, in their accommodation and when travelling to and from training.

“We will de-brief and review activities at the end of each training camp. Provided things progress successfully we will start to look at how we can move on to stage two of the government’s return to training guidance which allows for contact and would enable the boxers to step-up their training by re-introducing sparring and pad work with the coaches.”

This is the first time the team will have been brought together since the Olympic qualification event in London was cancelled after just three days of competition. Galal Yafai, now a two-time Olympian, is among the returning cohort. So too is Lauren Price, the World and European champion. She has been staying in Sheffield along with team-mate Karriss Artingstall as her family at home in Wales included people with underlying health issues whom she did not want to put at risk.

“I had been in a great run of form and was going into the qualifier in excellent shape. I had been through a really good training camp prior to the event and felt I was mentally and physically well prepared so I was absolutely gutted when I found out the qualifier was being suspended before I had chance to box,” Price reflected. “I was disappointed, but once the seriousness of the situation became clear I realised that the event could not have gone on.

“Then when it was announced that the Olympics was postponed so my attitude was to try and see the positives in the situation. It gives me more time to prepare and means I have another year working with the coaches to develop and improve… This has been my mindset during the lockdown and I have been using the time to work on a few things I might not normally get to try as ordinarily I would be preparing for a competition.

“I have also enjoyed having the opportunity to mix-up my training and doing things like going out for a bike ride in the fresh air, rather than just running on the track in the gym, has been good. It’s fortunate that I have been able to share a house with one of my squad mates, so we have been able to keep each other motivated and train together which has been a big help.”

Price welcomes their return to the EIS. “I am looking forward to going into camp and getting back into a routine of training three times a day. We are going to have to work around the social distancing guidelines so we will not be able to go flat out but it will be good to get back into the gym environment and have the coaches there to work with us and get that face-to-face input from them,” Price said.

“They have put loads of work into this and I do not have any concerns about going back.”