Hustle in a Bangkok bubble for Singapore shuttlers
New normal for national shuttlers as international badminton circuit resumes
Hotel room workouts using a carton of water bottles as weights, warm-up sessions in the bus to maximise on-court training time and little choice in meal options due to being cooped up in the hotel room in accordance with Covid-19 protocol.
That is what the resumption of tournament action looks like for Singapore's badminton players, who are in Bangkok for a double-header that marks the sport's resumption.
The Republic's contingent are not the only ones thinking outside the box, with Olympic women's champion Carolina Marin posting a video of herself working out with a hotel towel while men's world No. 3 Anders Antonsen practised serving shuttlecocks into his shoes.
Severely disrupted by Covid-19, the last major international tournament was the Denmark Open last October.
Bangkok will play host to the Yonex Thailand Open from today to Sunday, followed by the Toyota Thailand Open (Jan 19-24) before culminating in the BWF World Tour Finals (Jan 27-31) - which will feature the top eight singles, doubles and mixed doubles players.
The Singapore contingent of Yeo Jia Min, Loh Kean Yew, Crystal Wong and Jin Yujia, along with national singles coach Kelvin Ho, left for the Thai capital on Monday last week.
They were confined to their rooms at the Novotel Bangkok Impact hotel for the first two days, until they received the results of their Covid-19 tests.
Even after testing negative, they remain largely confined to the hotel, except for the allotted 75-minute training sessions at Impact Arena.
Men's singles world No. 38 Loh, 23, told The New Paper: "This has been quite a different experience as compared to previous tournaments. We did some room training (for) the first two days and got used to the new normal here...
"We had some exercises prepared by our trainer before coming here, specifically for when we are in our rooms. It's about 60 minutes. I used resistance bands and water bottles as weights."
Women's singles world No. 26 Yeo, 21, added that it was a new experience not interacting with other players as timings have been staggered for various contingents.
The meals have also taken some getting used to, with the monotonous servings of chicken breast a recurring theme of Loh's social media posts, as he jokingly captioned a photo of him on a treadmill with: "Trying to run away from all the breast meat."
Said Yeo: "One day, we even ate chicken breast for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I couldn't finish it."
While there seems to have been more variety in the pre-packaged meals recently, Loh noted: "It would be ideal to have more choices as to what we eat, and what time to eat."
The two Thailand Opens have been hit by a host of withdrawals, including men's world No. 1 Kento Momota and women's No. 2 Chen Yufei - for coronavirus-related reasons.
But there remains top-tier competition for the Singaporean contingent.
Today, Loh takes on Indonesia's world No. 7 and reigning Asian Games champion Jonatan Christie while the duo Jin, 23, and Wong, 21, are up against Thailand's Laksika Kanlaha and Atitaya Povano.
Yeo, meanwhile, will also face a home favourite in the first round, as she takes on world No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon, a former world champion.