The fascination of sportspeople in lockdown | Jack Marshall's column

Following the Rugby World Cup last year, Tongan prop forward Ben Tameifuna returned to his club a smidge overweight. It happens. You’re away from the bosses and the fitness gurus so you go for seconds. You indulge. It’s a World Cup, for heaven’s sake. Live a little.

Monday, 13th July 2020, 8:10 am
Kyle Walker (credit: PA)

Trouble is, Tameifuna returned to Racing 92 in Paris weighing some 166kg. That’s 26 stone in old money. To put that into perspective, Harry Maguire, widely regarded as A Bit of A Lump, clocks in at 100kg. Now imagine Maguire ate his Portuguese teammate Bruno Fernandes. That’s one Ben Tameifuna.

Understandably peeved, Racing reportedly told Tameifuna he was getting nowhere near a scrum until he slimmed down to his fighting weight of 140kg. Biting the bullet - and, one would imagine, nothing much else - Tameifuna went away and shed the excess weight. Before lockdown, he was listed at 134kg.

I mention this because I’m wondering how Tameifuna has coped in lockdown. With us all confined to the great indoors, the ‘Covid-15’ trope referring to the 15lbs some will return to society carrying has been doing the rounds. And, given they're supposedly more immune to mortal temptation as well as infinitely more committed than the rest of us, seeing how sportspeople have coped has been an unexpected fascination of lockdown.

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Proving Tameifuna is the exception rather than the rule, Sale Sharks’ Bolton-born prop Ross Harrison - himself a not-insignificant 119kg - has demonstrated truly sickening superhuman stickability by completing a 42km marathon row in three hours. Speaking of marathons, cricketers Ben Stokes and Steve Smith logged debut half-marathons, posting excellent times of around 1hr 35 mins.

Some athletes turned-amateur pavement-pounders, however, have had terrible lockdowns. Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley was caught artificially improving his 5km time by recording sprint bursts and pausing his workout app as he recovered, prompting hilarity on Twitter. Having twice been caught training too close to others and then getting a haircut, Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier breached lockdown measures almost as many times as he’s helped Spurs keep clean sheets in 2020.

Kyle Walker’s role as captain of the Covidiots XI was nailed-on after hosting a party with two sex workers just hours after urging people to observe social distancing. He then decided to travel to Sheffield to see his parents and sister, whose birthday it was. He hugged her, later writing ‘what am I meant to do – push her away?’ Yes, Kyle. This is a global pandemic.

But it’s not all bad news. The avuncular David Moyes has been volunteering as a delivery driver in Lytham and even made a bit of cash after an oblivious local gave him £20 for her £16.80 delivery. ‘Keep the change,’ she told the West Ham manager, who reportedly earns £2m a year. One can only picture Moysey's face.