In training for the (very modern) Quarantine Pentathlon

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don’t fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don’t fence me in.

– Don’t fence me in, The Andrews Sisters (music and lyrics by Cole Porter & Robert Fletcher)

Let’s start with the good news…


Ok, then, that proved tricky this morning but I’m determined to look on the bright side as it’s now midweek and I’m into day 11 of my 14-day hotel quarantine at the Kerry. Three more days, a couple more delightful nasal and throat intrusions and I will be a free man of Hong Kong.

While there’s a definite sense of Groundhog Day about the experience, I am counting my blessings that I am one of the lucky ones who only has to do 14 days, as opposed to the 21-day stay that now awaits visitors from an additional 15 countries – including France, Spain, the UAE, the US and Thailand – from this Friday. Those countries join the high-risk category that already included the UK.

Tough just became a whole lot tougher in Hong Kong as the government unveiled a wide-ranging tightening of the boarding, quarantine and testing requirements for those arriving into the Special Administrative Region from 0.00am on 20 August.

Click on the image to read the full South China Morning Post article on the latest tightening of restrictions

Effective from Friday, medium-risk countries are all those not classified as falling into the other two categories (high-risk and low-risk), including Australia (previously low-risk), Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam.

Additionally, and alas, anyone entering from medium-risk countries will still have to undergo at least 14 days of quarantine following the scrapping of a much-anticipated plan for those who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies to only have to undergo seven days.

With entry from Mainland China and Macau categorised separately, my home country of New Zealand now stands alone in the low-risk category (meaning just seven days hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated arrivals).

A spot of good news then? Not so fast. New Zealand has now gone into a nationwide Level 4 (maximum) snap lockdown after a single locally transmitted case of the Delta variant, imported from Australia, quickly morphed into ten cases (and counting) – all Delta-related. What’s worse is that some of those who have been diagnosed were fully vaccinated, so-called ‘breakthrough’ cases. If you didn’t realise it yet, then the Delta variant is very serious indeed.

Worrying times in New Zealand, so COVID-free for so long, as the Delta variant outbreak spreads in Auckland. Click on the image to read all the latest details from New Zealand media Stuff.

Wherever we are, we all have to weigh up on a personal level what the ever-changing regulations mean. Unless things change, I will now not be able to visit the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes (which will happen, health situation permitting, on 24-28 October), though members of my team will.

I certainly won’t be able to dash back to the UK to manage the sale of my house. And frankly, aside from a long-planned November visit to the Mainland and to Hainan (I have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival in Shanghai and be tested daily for a further seven days in Hainan but do not have to on return to Hong Kong, provided my health checks are in place), I won’t be doing much travelling until the situation becomes easier.

Certainly I won’t be doing any travel for the coming four days, confined as I am to my 10-metre long room. I am getting bored with my daily 1,800-stride 1,500 metre walk mentioned in my last Blog, so have decided to create the quarantine equivalent of the modern pentathlon.

Having watched the Tokyo Olympics so recently, I am fully versed in this event, which offers a mix of running, swimming, fencing, shooting and horseback riding.

Well, although I can see a very large mass of water in the glorious, fragrant form of Victoria Harbour, my state of incarceration means I cannot get into it. So that’s swimming out unless I opt to splash around in the bathtub, which somehow doesn’t seem sufficiently athletic.

Horseback riding? Well I could order up a rocking horse I suppose from a local supplier but given the current health crisis it would probably immediately come down with equine flu. That leaves running, fencing and shooting, with the last one a definite no no.

So, my very modern Quarantine Pentathlon looks like this.

  • The 10,000 metre walk – 1,000 gruelling laps of a standard-sized Kerry Hotel room. A true test of endurance, boredom – and the carpet.
Just another 983 laps of my room to go during a rigorous 10,000 metre training session at the Kerry Hotel (All photos: Yulim Productions Ltd)
  • The Shot Put – Given the distinct absence of a 7.26 kg (16 pounds) spherical shot in the room, it is a case of looking to that staple item in the Kerry Hotel – the fruit bowl – for my throws. Despite my national origins, I have opted against the Kiwifruit (wrong shape, a nasty prickliness on the hands and likely to splatter) and gone for a choice of a giant peach or an oversized orange. The peach will probably burst on the wall anyway, so that can be my qualifying throw, followed by the more resilient orange in the final.

(Left) A peach of a throw in training but (right) the orange lends the peel good factor for the final rounds of the competition
  • Fencing – Ha, you thought that was a no-no didn’t you? Well it isn’t. I haven’t yet told my wife about it but the Kerry chopsticks are almost made for purpose. The Modern Pentathlon features what is known as one-touch épée – basically you score if your weapon touches the opponent with enough force to depress the tip. Ouch, this could get painful. My wife hails from the fencing stronghold of South Korea whereas in New Zealand fencing is simply used to keep the sheep in. My next Blog may be my first as a one-eyed man.
Fencing, the perfect foil for all that sabre-rattling in the news about the COVID spread
  • Weightlifting – Well this was an obvious choice with any amount of objects around the room that could be deployed. Weightlifting competitions take the form of two disciplines – the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk – with your final combined score counting.
Alas this bold attempt at the Snatch failed due to the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc being raised higher than the The Cape Mist from Durbanville Hills

In the Snatch, the athlete has to lift the weights over his or her head in one single motion. In the Clean & Jerk (think Boris Johnson after a shower), the weight is lifted in two stages. The Clean – to get the weight at the shoulder level, and then the Jerk, where you lift the weight over your head and get it under control (the weight, not your head – trust me, after 11 days in hotel quarantine, your head is never under control)

The Olympics offers a series of divisons based on the lifter’s weight, so I have signed up for the 73kg class (though maybe it should be 109kg and over after 11 days of room service). In Tokyo, Chinese superstar Shi Zhiyong won the gold medal with lifts of 166 kg and 198 kg respectively, setting a new world record of 364kg.

Wow, I know my wife over-packed but I still think our heaviest suitcase (now that I’ve drunk all the wine that was stashed in it) is 25kg. Too much even for a sturdy nearly former All Blacks trialist such as myself. So, to ensure I qualify for the second stage of the contest, I’ve opted to Snatch two bottles of wine  (an old habit) – an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from Marlborough, New Zealand and (courtesy of Harry Kartasis from Global Drinks Limited here in Hong Kong) an excellent Durbanville Hills The Cape Mist Sauvignon Blanc 2018 from South Africa.

Both bottles, I would point out, are full (they won’t be for long once qualifying is over) so this could be quite an onerous Quarantine Pentathlon discipline though my years of training with such instruments has me quietly confident.

What about the Clean & Jerk? Well, given that I’ve lifted countless items of cabin baggage items into overhead lockers down the years with precisely that kind of movement, I am opting for the small hold-all I took onboard my recent flight from Incheon International to Hong Kong International Airport. It’s going to be tough, so I think I will start by taking a few items out and put them back in as the competition heats up.

Always one of the most demanding Quarantine Pentathlon sports and here I came up short in the 73kg hold-all class with my arms deemed to not be straight at the moment of lift

That’s four disciplines. For this very modern Pentathlon I need a fifth. So here’s the choice.

  • Synchronized swimming – Ok, I know I said that the real thing is out, but if what I position myself just so against the window with the harbour backdrop and do my best freestyle or backstroke impersonation? Or perhaps, as it is a highly artistic event, I could hold up a copy of  Henri Charrière’s Papillon on my phone and people might think it’s the butterfly.
Now tell me you weren’t fooled into thinking that this was the real thing. A superb example of synchronized swimming with extra marks awarded for the aquatic backdrop.
  • Rowing – See swimming. With this glorious harbour behind me, can’t I just pretend? Those chopsticks that served me so poorly in the Fencing should serve me well here. Mind you the other night they caught a crab in room service. A word of warning if you try this in your quarantine hotel. Stupidly, I turned my air conditioning right down and nearly froze half way through training. What a numb skuller.
The chopsticks power me through training. Just got to be careful I don’t catch a crab.
  • Trampolining – Ivan Litvinovich of Belarus held his nerve to pull off an outstanding routine of multiple somersaults and spins, soaring 10 metres into the air, to claim his country’s first medal at Tokyo 2020. With a King-size+ bed, and a very soft mattress as an ideal springboard, who says I can’t go one better? Trouble is, if I do I will end up in room 649 as opposed to 549 and that may not be a quarantine floor. Best avoid.
I was getting a little jumpy after 11 days of quarantine, which has helped me perfect my technique for the Quarantine Trampolining final
  • The triple jump – What we used to call the hop, step and jump at school is a natural for a finely tuned quarantine athlete such as me. Hop? Why that’s so easy, I could do it on one leg. Step? I have been doing plenty of those in training for my best event, the 10,000-metre walk. Jump? Easy. Stick a horror move on the in-room TV. No sandpit to land on of course and I can’t open the hotel door for an Inspector Clouseau-type crash into the room opposite so this just might end in tears.
Going hopping mad after 11 days in quarantine
  • Rugby: In the Olympics it was Rugby Sevens but Rugby Ones sounds like a breathtakingly exciting variation. After all, with no-one to pass the ball to, you can expect a lot of incredible solo tries. Ok, it’s not exactly a ball but any vaguely oval object will do as you can see from the live action photo below. As someone who ranks just 195,000 places behind the great Dan Carter in the pantheon of New Zealand fly-halves (total points score in senior rugby, 2 – a conversion from right out in front for Merivale-Papanui vs Lincoln College that hit the crossbar and wobbled over), I just know this is my big chance for Gold. Told you I would find some good news.
Things threaten to go pear-shaped for my opposition as I sell the perfect dummy en route to one of the great solo tries

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