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How good or bad are our champions after the lockdown

Posted by on July 18, 2020

How good or bad are our champions after the lockdown

© Ton Smilde
Torbjörn Blomdahl staying in the FC Porto ambiance for four weeks to be treated for his upper arm

PORTO - The world champion Torbjörn Blomdahl is staying in Porto for four weeks in this era without competitions to be treated for an upper arm tendonitis. FC Porto's team of doctors and therapists is specialized and knowledgeable in these kind of troublesome injuries. The Swedish star player, since last year the new world champion in three cushion again, undergoes two hours of treatments every day with acupuncture, manual massages, electric radiation and all kinds of exercises. ''I'm very happy that this fantastic team wants to help me." The world champion in ladies three cushion, Therese Klompenhouwer (Netherlands), is physically vulnerable to her shoulder and back, but feels pretty good after the lockdown and lost some kilos of weight. "I'm ready and hope for the new start soon again."

How good or bad, well trained and motivated are the champions and top players in this period in which there is still no prospect of a restart? Which players go to the gym regularly, jump on the road bike, work on the recovery from minor pains, dive into the swimming pool or do other sports to stay in good shape?

Torbjörn Blomdahl started up a tour along some champions with his story about the four-week stay with the medical and therapeutic staff of FC Porto. Kozoom also asked other players about physical fitness after the long lockdown.

Semih Sayginer gives a glimpse into his theory about fitness training, the risks of (muscle) injuries and surely wants to compete with the young, top fit Asians. ''The condition of a billiard player, especially of our generation in their fifties, must be optimal at this stage of our career. Better than everyone thinks, because we travel a lot, often show up for two or three games every day. It takes a lot of talent, training, experience and a certain age to become a three cushion top player. When we made our breakthrough, we were already in our thirties or forties. That was the older generation, but these times are changed. The Koreans and other Asians play and practice so many hours every day, that they are able to join the world top around 20, 30 years of age. That is why we, from this generation, have to pay much more attention to fitness and endurance training. I repeat that every billiard player in the top must be in a perfect condition. We need to do fitness workouts, strength training to have control over the muscles and be mentally strong in matches. We are fifty and older, we have to train very hard to compete with this young generation.''

Semih Sayginer, trying to be in a perfect shape with trainings in the gym

Torbjörn Blomdahl didn't feel the pain in his upper arm so bad before the lockdown. ''I had it for a long time, I think, but it got worse during the long stop. I couldn't no longer bring my arm behind my hip. And couldn't wash my hair with my right arm. Playing billiards went well, except masse strokes, which were impossible. But things are going better now, so there is improvement, thanks to the treatments.''

The philosophy of exercising and hard trainings in gyms is not shared by all players from the top. Eddy Merckx doesn't feel a big need himself. ''I do some walking and cycling, but fitness and strength training are not spent on me. My powerful stroke is not a matter of strength training, but of technique.''

Other champions, like Dick Jaspers and Torbjörn Blomdahl, are known for their regular physical efforts between matches and tournaments. The Swede was a fanatic cyclist for several years, Jaspers often goes out for running trainings and assures: ''I regularly go to the gym to do trainings, but if I am too enthusiastic with stretching exercises, I sometimes suffer from my lower back because of too much pressure on my back. So, I'm careful. I do very light strength trainings, but I for me it's even more important to do swimming trainings. I'm doing this since 1989, I feel that it keeps me very fit and I rarely suffer from injuries.''

The Dutchman, the number one worldwide three cushion, is still in relax mode for the time being and was in Milan last week where he was invited by his sponsor Longoni. Jaspers: ''We made a tourist trip to Sirmione, in the south of Garda Lake, among others, where Marco Zanetti joined us. The invitation was on the occasion of my new cue, the Olanda Heaven, but also a bit because of the 30th anniversary that I will soon celebrate at Longoni.''

Therese Klompenhouwer reveals about the long lockdown: ''I had gained quite some weight, but now I have lost these kilos again. I walk a lot with the dog and I pay attention to my diet, all to keep fit. At home, I do exercises three, four times per week to keep my back stable and strong, because I originally have a rather weak back. I only have some pain in my hands now, because muscles are cramped and overloaded. But that's not really a problem when playing billiards. Sometimes, I go to a sports therapist. Billiard players are in the same position at the table, so it's imortant that we therefore take good care of our body. During this lockdown, I practice billiards at least three or four times a week."

Therese Klompenhouwer, doing exercises at home to be in good condition for the new start

Duc Anh Chien, who climbed to the world top rankings with his second place behind Blomdahl at the World Championship, reacts from his home in Vietnam: ''My feeling is that our sport is really good to stay healthy. I always do exercise for 1 hour per day, in the fitness corner of my billiard home: running, cycling and strength training. Billiards actually is a kind of weight lifting. I move my cue back and forth 200 to 400 times per day. I can say that I have been trainings for a long time, so I don't feel any pain. The pain in the muscles requires an adjustment process for billiard players. That results in more stamina and strength as the muscle recovers." The Vietnamese has studied techniques and theories: "One of the best ways to prevent muscle pain, is to make new movements with a low intensity and gradually increase the difficulty. Give your muscles time to adjust to these new movements. That helps to minimize unwanted, painful situations.''

Duc Anh Chien Nguyen from Vietnam: keeping fit on a home trainer in his billiard room

Jérémy Bury stated: ''Physical abilities are also very important in billiards when you play at high level and if you want to play competition for a long time until 50yo or more. There are mostly two kinds of problems: injuries to arm/shoulder or elbow that you need to treat, and lower back pain which can be avoided with prophylactic exercises. I had been treated 2 or 3 times in my career for a « tennis elbow » (tendinitis) and thanks to my osteopath i recovered quite quickly with cryotherapy.''

The French player continued: ''About lower back pain, I won't be too technical in my answer but I could learn many things when I studied at INSEP (the National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance is a French teacher training institute and center for excellence in sports that trains elite athletes) in order to pass my exam for the Ministry of Sport. Because billiards makes you bend and twist your body hundreds of times in a tournament, you need to do core strength exercises and also some exercises for your psoasis. I do it 4 times a week.''

Bury: ''Moreover, I do some bodyweight workout everyweek to keep a good control of some muscles which is very important for a perfect stroke. The last thing I do every week is some cardio training, mainly running session. You need a good cardio condition in order to endure the succession of games and tournaments (with long trips and time difference) without losing your concentration and controlling your heart beat because of the intensity and the stress of games. Physical is one of the performance factor, even in billiards and I am sure that in the future it will be more and more explored.''

Jérémy Bury, during his running training in Porto, where he won the Coupe d'Europe with his French team of La Baule

Martin Horn: ''I practice at home almost every day, but now I am in Berlin for a training camp with my team for one week. I can work on many techniques now, such as playing left-handed, playing position and trying different cue tips. At home, I do trainings to stay fit: swimming and riding my bicycle. I'm never top fit, actually, but conditionally I feel in a good shape."

Roland Forthomme, like many, is desperately waiting for the new start. ''I'm okay, not bothered by anything, I do no physical trainings, just some walking. And well, I feel may be less fit, but when the games come back, it will automatically get better. I haven't practiced much yet. That is difficult for me without the prospect of tournament."


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