Malaika Mihambo was named Germany's Sportswoman of the Year in 2020 for the second time in a row. This time, it had less to do with the long jump world champion's athletic achievements in the Corona year, which was poor in highlights, and more to do with her commitment to children. With her "Herzsprung" (lit. "jumping heart") project, she used videos to get children playing sports during the lockdown period. In the meantime, "Herzsprung" has become an association that pays selected elementary school children for a one-year membership in an athletics club.
The importance of sports for children and adults, especially in the Corona crisis, was also the focus of Mihambo's appearance at the start of ISPO Munich Online. In the exclusive interview with ISPO.com that followed, the woman, who turned 27 at the beginning of 2021, also revealed why parents should take their children outdoors right now and what she plans for the 2021 Olympic year.
ISPO.com: Malaika Mihambo, you won the indoor ISTAF in Düsseldorf in January. How good did the competition feel after a long break?
Malaika Mihambo: I haven't jumped with such a long run-up in a year, so it wasn't that easy at first. In the summer, the run-up was shorter, so you have to relearn the rhythm. Of course there is still room for improvement, but it was nice to have a competition again after three months of preparation.
To what extent does sports help you cope with the Corona crisis?
Mihambo: Sport is enormously important, especially at this time. It doesn't just affect me as a competitive athlete, but all of us. We are all in the same situation and thus united in solidarity. Sport helps in the crisis: In sport, you can not only move, be active and thus strengthen your immune system, but you also deal with yourself and are with yourself. You can set yourself goals and become more balanced through sport. I think it's also important to stimulate your mind. I use meditation for this. It's especially important at this time to listen to your inner self and strengthen both body and mind with a holistic approach.
However, amateur athletes in particular are having a hard time playing sports right now due to the lockdown restrictions....
Mihambo: As a professional athlete, I can still train relatively normally while observing the distance and hygiene rules. Amateur athletes have a much harder time of it. But you can still do sports. Whether with the help of new technologies that allow you to compete virtually with others or via an app. Or outside in the fresh air. In times of homeschooling, it's especially important for children to get out into the fresh air, get some exercise and do sports.
Children are especially close to your heart, as your involvement in the association "Malaika's Herzsprung" shows...
Mihambo: I find working with kids inspiring! I started doing this in November 2019 when I offered sports lessons for kids once a week at a school. Then came the first lockdown and it had to be done online. The response to the videos was terrific! But now I think it's important for kids to get out with their families and exercise. It's the right counterbalance to homeschooling at a desk. Every bit of light and exercise helps against the Corona and winter blues.
In fact, the situation is serious in the clubs, most of which not only have to do without playing sports together, but also lose members...
Mihambo: That is indeed a cause for concern, because club sports have an important social component. I also miss this togetherness with my training partners very much. Especially during the training breaks, we always talked and laughed a lot. This exchange is also enormously important for amateur athletes, because it helps them to keep up. At the moment, you have to find other, virtual options.
How important is this community idea in sports in general?
Mihambo: Very important because we are connected through sports. Sport inspires us to go new ways together. Sport promotes peace, fair play and tolerance. Now is the time to build new networks with the help of new technologies. So that the community is stronger after the crisis.
What are your plans for 2021, the year in which the Olympic Games, which were postponed last year, are to be held in Tokyo?
Mihambo: Even though the successful staging of the Olympic Games in Tokyo could be an important signal for the whole world, I am not yet dealing with the topic. My training schedule is set, of course, but I think from week to week Because nobody knows exactly what will be then. So I do what I can influence myself: I try to do a good workout every day. To pay attention to the right physiotherapy, regeneration, and meditation.