Coronavirus: Non Stanford and Aaron Royle on life in Sydney hotel quarantine

Watch: How triathlete Non Stanford is training while in quarantine

Food deliveries are going missing, the scent of sweaty workout trainers is filling the air and a makeshift bike garage has been set up in a hotel room dubbed “a luxurious prison cell”.

British triathlete Non Stanford and her fiance – Australian triathlete Aaron Royle – are locked away for a 14-day quarantine period, having landed in Sydney in the midst of Australia’s coronavirus lockdown.

The view they have of the city’s famous harbour may be spectacular but the prospect of 336 hours together in the same room is a test, even for a recently engaged couple.

“We did joke we may get divorced before we get married – but so far, so good,” Stanford told BBC Sport.

So how are empty water bottles providing a tool for working out? And whose trainers are locked in a safe? Here, Stanford tells BBC Sport about life in hotel lockdown.

A film scene and a gym

Royle and Stanford have been using virtual racing software to offer stimulation during training
Royle and Stanford have been using virtual racing software to offer an element of stimulation during training

Australia implemented rules on 28 March to ensure anyone arriving in the country spent two weeks in hotel quarantine.

So, knowing what they were getting into, Stanford duly filled half a suitcase with food in readiness for isolation in Royle’s homeland. Being greeted at a deserted airport by authorities sporting biohazard masks and barking orders still came as something of a shock, though.

“It was like a scene out of a film,” Stanford said. “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over it and it brought home how drastic the situation is. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.”

A soldier escorted them to a room in a hotel which is now run by the Australian government. As their last face-to-face interaction with another human being for a fortnight ended, it was time to set up a makeshift training camp.

“We brought two bikes and our own bike trainer which you put your bike on to ride it indoors,” Stanford told BBC Sport via Facetime.

“And with the advanced technology of riding on Zwift [the online multiplayer cycling and running game], we can join races and group rides on the computer. That has helped massively.

“We have brought a lot of gym equipment with us. And we get a bottle of water with every meal here so we’ve kept the bottles of water, filled them, put them in a back pack and it’s like a weight on our back to train with.

“We have been using the window seat as a step up block and then we have resistance bands tied to a clothes rail and are using them for swimming technique. It’s amazing how you can adapt even the smallest space into a really functional gym.”

Tiger King and shoe quarantine

Laundry hangs from lights, an inflated swiss ball is wedged behind a chair, an upturned bike is placed in the makeshift ‘garage area’ and a second bike sits next to the room’s bed.

It affords the pair the chance to conduct two-hour rides. And it is serious business as Stanford, who finished fourth at Rio 2016, and Royle – who was ninth – are both aiming for places at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Such is the heat in the room, Royle’s sodden and allegedly smelly shoes are wrapped in a towel and placed in a quarantine of their own inside the room’s safe.

“I think it’s 336 hours together, so a really long time to be confined in a small space with anybody, really,” said Stanford, who accepted Royle’s marriage proposal over Christmas.

“We have been getting into ‘Tiger King’ on Netflix, like everybody else seems to be right now. It is blowing my mind how absurd it is. And we’ve geeked out and watched the 2004 women’s Olympic triathlon again.

“With your partner, you’re more likely to say it how it is and have petty arguments. So far we haven’t had any, which I’m impressed with.”

‘Have they nicked our food?’

Two hour bike rides and watching Tiger King on Netflix have become stand-out during days in quarantine
Two-hour bike rides and watching Tiger King on Netflix have become standout moments during days in quarantine

Stanford, who is rehabilitating after knee surgery late in 2019, shows BBC Sport a cupboard she has filled with snacks in the hotel.

The 2013 world champion admits both she and Royle have at times felt irritable as a result of the small and not-too-appetising portions.

“The food situation has been pretty awful, especially the first 48 hours,” she said.

“You have no choice over what you get. It is left outside the room and you have to check every 10 minutes as it’s a two-hour window. It’s been cold, the portions are very small and we were getting ‘hangry’.

“There has now been a game changer, though, as we were told we are allowed one takeaway delivery a day so yesterday we ordered a Thai – and having a hot, normal portion of food was amazing.

“We had a note through the door saying from now on all meal times would be paroled by security guards in the corridors. I think some people staying here had been checking outside their door and had been stealing the meals of other people.

“For about six meals in a row, we opened the door and had one meal there. We assumed they thought there was only one of us in the room but maybe now one of our neighbours was nicking one of our meals.”

There is something to take from this…

Food has become the primary focus of the day, while comfort is also being found in blogging and watching the sunset over Sydney Harbour.

It has been four weeks since Stanford was able to swim, while Royle briefly lost motivation for his brutal training when the Tokyo Olympics were initially postponed.

The pair at least now have certainty and can chase their shared Olympic goal in 2021. For now though, the simple pleasures they – like so many – once took for granted offer something to reach for.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be so grateful of fresh air and being able to exercise in a space larger than 6ft by 6ft,” added Stanford.

“I can’t wait to get in the sea and swim; that will be amazing. You really appreciate the small things and what you take for granted on a daily basis. If anything is taken from this, we will learn about what we do have.”

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