Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Naiomi Matthews on strict COVID-19 quarantine: “Fighting against a soft toy is not ideal”

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Maitane Alaña Place
Naiomi Matthews achieving victory. Photo by Baltic.

Naiomi Matthews has been competing in Grappling for eight years and has made the sport her way of life. Even though she has other small jobs, she is a semi-professional Spanish athlete.

Grappling is a martial art ranked as a variety of Jiu-jitsu, where combating skills are essential to  submissions and making someone tap out.  The round does not finish with one movement; instead, the players have to continue with different keys in order to fully succeed.

Naiomi Matthews in competition. Photo by Studio Life

Quarantine side effects

The COVID-19 quarantine has delayed further competitions, which were to take place in the summer. Some athletes of her sport also compete in Greco-Roman wrestling, so the delay of the Olympics has affected their own tournaments. Grappling is an associated Olympic sport, which means it is recognised as professional but is not included in the IOC events.

The only positive to take away is that the Grappling World Championship taking place in October, has not been cancelled yet.

In the case of Matthews, her coach has sent her specific training sessions to do at home but she’s lacking a real opponent to complete her strength skills. “It’s a bit hard to fight with a soft toy”, she jokes. However, she admits the first week of isolation was awful, as she was left without anything to do.

During the summer of 2012, Matthews joined a friend in her grappling class and loved it. After just two months, she started competing and winning prizes. “My gym was closed, and I went to try and fell in love.”
Last year, Naiomi Matthews had to overcome surgery of a cervical hernia so her development came to a halt, but in February she managed to win the European Championship in Rome. This victory allowed her to achieve a ticket for the Combat Games, set to happen in the summer of 2021.

These Combat Games are still to be defined because in the case the Olympic Games are delayed to 2021, some athletes will have to balance their efforts as they compete in both events.

This quarantine period has also cancelled a trip to Israel and her participation in a competition organised by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, who have called off all of their tournaments.

The Spanish national team is very small, but Matthews affirmed every athlete wins medals in every tournament, which leaves the country in a very good position regardless of the notoriety of the sport.

This young athlete competes in both Jiu-jitsu and Grappling, which share movements but are not identical. Every world organisation has its own rules that make each event a ‘nightmare’ for Matthews, as she has to prepare the physical performance as well as the score.

Naiomi Matthews will continue training at home until the situation calms down and the Government communicates it’s safe to leave our houses.