Turkey run and pigeon post: The less celebrated sporting stories of 2020

PARIS (AFP) – The coronavirus pandemic played havoc with the sporting calendar in 2020 but it did not halt it and in some cases it inspired athletes from all corners of the world to face their sporting mountains with creativity.

Here we look at some of those sporting stories you may have missed.

American marathon runner Molly Seidel set herself some major goals in 2020: qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics and becoming the Fastest Known Turkey (impersonator) over 10 kilometres.

She achieved the first by coming second in the US trials in February, posting a time of two hours and 27 minutes 31 seconds.

On Thanksgiving morning, she completed the double-whammy by clocking 34 minutes 33 seconds in a 10km race on Cranberry Island, Maine while dressed as a turkey, wings and all.

Another story on an avian note that may have flown under the radar concerned a Belgian homing pigeon called New Kim.

The well-bred two-year-old, from a renowned Antwerp loft, was put up for auction in November at just EUR200.

She had won the 2018 crown as ‘Ace Pigeon Grand National Middle Distance’ in competitions held at Châteauroux and Argenton-sur-Creuse in France so she was no mug.

But no one expected her to sell for a record EUR1.6 million (USD1.9 million) to a Chinese buyer.

The sale beat the EUR1.25 million paid for male pigeon Armando last year, according to online auctioneers Pigeon Paradise (PIPA).

With most big city marathons either cancelled or restricted to the elite pounding the streets, runners had to find new ways to clock those miles. Many did it in the privacy of their own home.

Elisha Nochomovitz spent six hours and 48 minutes running the 42.2 kilometres, marathon distance, around the seven-metre balcony of his apartment in Toulouse while South African couple Collin and Hilda Allin covered the distance by running more than 2,100 laps of their 20-metre-long balcony in Dubai.

Chinese runner Pan Shancu went further, literally, running 66km in a loop at home in six hours, 41 minutes. A video of him repeatedly circling furniture in his apartment went viral in China.

“I felt a little dizzy at first, but you get used to it,” the 44-year-old told AFP.

Not everyone wants to run. When Philipp Klein Herrero had to cancel a skiing holiday because of the virus he recreated the winter sport experience in confinement in his Barcelona flat.

The result was a 57-second video called Freeride at home shot from a camera attached to the ceiling.

“I had a spark of creativity,” the 28-year-old video maker and amateur skier told AFP. “I’ve seen a lot of funny videos of people doing outdoor sports at home. So I wanted to do the same.”

In the video, edited in stop-motion, Herrero wakes on the floor in a sleeping bag in full gear.

Shot from above to make it seem that he is standing when he is, in fact, lying on the floor, he climbs a show-capped peak made of white sheets and then skis down.

He finishes with a crash, going helmet first into the sheets, as the message “Stay safe, stay at home” appears. The video went viral, clocking over 750,000 views on YouTube.