Giving Covid-19 a kickflip slap in the face

Staying on course... SA Olympic hopeful Jean-marc Johannes, from Athlone.

There’s not much Athlone professional skateboarder, Jean-marc Johannes can’t do on his deck. 

He’s South Africa’s first international skateboarding multiple gold medalist, a Guinness world record-holder with Olympic ambitions and has kick-flipped off a high container. But, like all of us, he’s been confined to his home during the lockdown period.

Covid-19 may have halted his and everyone else’s plans for 2020, but it hasn’t stopped him from doing his thing… in the backyard.

Like many hardworking sports enthusiasts he’s taken up an online fitness challenge and is honing his craft at home, instead of on the street or the nearest skate park.

His biggest disappointment has been the uncertainty around this year’s planned Olympic Games in Tokyo, which like all other sporting events, has been postponed.

Skateboarding, along with baseball, softball, karate and surfing, was due to feature in this year’s Games. Despite all qualifying events in which he was due to compete in, being called off prior to the announcement of the cancellation of the Games, Johannes remains optimistic. “I am still able to practice for the next three world records I will attempt to break,” he said.

“As soon as more information was released regarding Covid-19, I immediately took it upon myself to understand it better.

“I have a qualification in sports nutrition which gives me knowledge of how to approach nutrition for illness but this was different.

“I then took a digital course in immune support which gave me more updated knowledge on how to change my day-to-day diet in this time.

He says he avoids going outdoors, except to go shopping for essentials.

“Since before the lockdown I have increased my training indoors, using the equipment I have at home and online resources and a training plan designed by the sports science centre.”

If there’s one lesson learnt from the whole Covid-19 experience, it’s that we must take better care of ourselves and the world around us, says Johannes.

“We need to take more care in our lifestyles as well as our world.Writing down my goals is one thing that keeps me motivated. Knowing there are certain things I have not achieved or cannot do yet, reminds me that I have work to do.”

However, spending quality time on his deck remains a big challenge. “I’ve had to adjust my practice at home, using what I have available. In the past couple of days I have used a simple building brick, where I was able to do almost every ledge trick I can do.

“The video was later shared on Street League Skateboarding Instagram with other skaters resorting to similar actions. Using bricks was something I would do when I was growing up skating in Athlone. At a time of limited resources, we must rely on resourcefulness,” says Johannes.

“I must admit,” he says, “this is the longest I have been home in the past year or two. But it’s not wasted as I’ve been spending time with my loved ones and am able to do things I was never able to. For example, I’ve started making music again.

“However, I’m trying to have a regular sleeping pattern. Usually I would have so much going on throughout a normal day that by 4pm I would be considerably tired, but now it is not strenuous and I am up by 4am or 5am training.

“Everything is still on track with regards to qualification events and ultimately the Olympic games. I may have changed my training location, but I’ll never change the goal.”