Road to Tokyo, Part 3: Racing to qualify for the Olympics

Road to Tokyo Part 3

We first shared the story of Sadio Diallo’s road to qualify for the Olympics in March 2020. Then, the world shut down, and the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021.

Road to Tokyo Part 3

We caught up with Sadio as he adjusted his training regimen to lockdown. At the time, he shared how he stayed motivated, both mentally and physically.

One year later, the Axway Subscription Renewal Specialist has less than a month left to qualify to represent Mali, his birth country, in the Summer Olympics, and that deadline is coming up fast.

But a recent injury scare nearly slowed him down. He needs to hit a qualifying mark in competition by June 30th, but in April, Sadio had to pull out of competitions. He was forced to put training on hold for three weeks to make sure his body healed properly.

Thankfully, he’s back on the track now and feeling strong.

In the home stretch

When pandemic restrictions were strictest last year, Sadio had to cut down on track hours and be very creative with his scheduling. At one point, he was running on the sand around a lake to have enough space, and his coach helped him with some impromptu garage physical conditioning sessions.

Now, he says everything is reopened, and he’s able to train with the rest of his group — in proper facilities. “The neighbors are really happy that I’m done with my balcony workouts!” Sadio laughs.

Sadio is a sprinter, and he hopes to qualify for his specialty, the 200-meter dash. He’s also trying for the 400-meter and the 100-meter, the hardest sprint to qualify in. “These are my last years of competing at a high level, so why not try it?” Sadio said.

He explained it’s not a set decision: Sadio and his coach will continue to evaluate and have that conversation based on his physical condition.

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Now, it’s down to the wire: “There’s nothing I can do now in terms of preparing my body to get faster, I did everything possible during the preparation period last year” Sadio explained, “My goal now is to stay healthy, conditioned, and compete enough to get the lowest possible qualifying time. “

“Competition brings the best out of you and I am going to do my very best to qualify,” he added.

Sadio says trying for the 100 meter is a stretch goal. “The way I’m running right now in the hundred is unknown territory for me, but the 200 is definitely achievable if I stay healthy and I keep on running races.”

Just keep running

Every weekend he has a chance, Sadio is running races, at a pace of 3-4 competitions a month up until the June 30th deadline.

He’s put in the hard work to condition himself physically, and now he says he needs to focus on getting sharper. The tiniest technical mistake can cost precious time. Sadio and his coach are working to shave off milliseconds by analyzing every mistake after a race.

“I’ll go back to practice with my coach and train and make sure that we focus on that mistake. So then on the next race, I won’t make that mistake,” Sadio said.

This is his favorite part, as everything starts to come together and he’s reminded of his love of the sport. But it can also be extremely draining.

“This type of training is really taxing on your nervous system,” said Sadio. “You take longer to recover, and you need to be extremely careful because this is really where your body’s primed to be injured. You’re really pushing the body to the limit, and this is the most intense time of the season for us. But it’s also the most fun because it’s just pure sprinting and going fast!”

All in a day’s work

What does training look like right now?

Sadio usually starts his morning with some yoga to stretch and loosen his body. When he gets to the track, he warms up with short bursts of intense activity to make sure his body and muscles are ready to fire. Then, he’ll lace up his spikes and race against his teammates. And then he goes to work.

“We’re really just doing what we like to do: running fast!” said Sadio. They focus on speed work and do block starts on short distances.

On some days, the athletes pull weighted sleds they’ll attach to their waists to create resistance. Learning to work the curve is also important — athletes will change up the lane they’re running in so there are no surprises come competition time.

It takes a village

Recovery is a crucial part of his preparations, and that also requires quite a team.

“Right now, my body can only take one training session a day,” Sadio explains. After his workday is over, he heads to massage and red-light therapy. He’ll typically follow that up with an ice bath and hot tub or sauna, alternating heat, and cold. And of course, more stretching.

Think getting massaged daily sounds nice? Sadio points out these aren’t exactly your average massages: no scented candles or relaxing music to be found, this is deep tissue work.

“They go really, really deep into your muscle tissue to make sure they straighten up all the little knots that you have in your nerves and muscles. It hurts! But I like it because I feel like they are releasing my muscles from the morning’s effort,” said Sadio.

Sadio also works with physical therapists and a chiropractor weekly to correct the slightest imbalances.

And if all of this sounds expensive, that’s because it is. Sadio says these treatments and training routines help give a runner’s body more longevity in the sport, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to it.

He’s grateful that his training is financed in part by the Malian Track and Field Federation as well as sponsors and local therapists and vendors.

Sadio doesn’t have a nutritionist like some pro athletes do, he just focuses on eating a balanced diet that won’t weigh him down on the track. And his wife has been a key player in helping him maintain a proper diet and work out his schedule.

Now that she’s recently begun traveling for work, he’s throwing himself 100% into work at Axway and his practices. And he’s ready to run in the Tokyo Olympics. “Basically, I’m doing what I love to do: running fast,” said Sadio.

The Tokyo Summer Olympics will run from July 23rd to August 10th. All of Axway is cheering Sadio on, stay tuned to find out which events he will qualify to run in!

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Sadio’s Road to the Tokyo Summer Olympics here:

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