Tennis, golf and skateboarding among sports set to resume on Wednesday

Mark Staniforth, PA Olympics Correspondent
PA Media: Sport

Double-faults and soul-destroying shanks are set to make their tentative returns to the English sporting landscape after the Government announced minor changes to coronavirus lockdown conditions this week.

Tennis and golf are two of the sports set to benefit from heavily restricted reopenings on a recreational level, while the likes of cricket and sailing intend to await further clarity before following suit.

But for Olympic aspirants in surfing and skateboarding, the rule tweaks represent a seismic shift in respect of their immediate opportunities, and from Wednesday will enable them to get their Tokyo ambitions back on track.

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Surfing is finally set to return to the English coast (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Surfing is finally set to return to the English coast (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Reigning national surfing champion Luke Dillon is planning to return to the water for the first time in over three months this week, after governing body Surfing England updated its self-distancing and safety guidelines.

“It feels like a throwback to when I was 12 years old, finishing school and rushing to the beach,” Dillon told the PA news agency.

“I’ve been checking the surfing forecast more in the last two days than in the last two months. It’s not looking great so I’m just going to be flopping out, but I’m just so happy I can go back in the sea.”

Tennis is set to return on a recreational level (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Tennis is set to return on a recreational level (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The news will also make a major difference for skateboard hopeful Alex Decunha, with Skateboard England advocating a “responsible” return as a number of skate parks across the country prepare to reopen.

Since lockdown rules came into force, Decunha has been taking his status as Britain’s number one ‘Street’ skater almost literally by training alone in a Milton Keynes car park.

“It’s pretty easy to stay away from people when you’re skating but you need other people, because you’re pushing each other and that’s when you progress at a much better rate,” said Decunha.

“Obviously we all have to be careful and keep safe but it will be good to get back to the skate park again and it will help me get my consistency back to a good level.”

Some skate parks could reopen after the latest government guidance (Ben Birchall/PA)
Some skate parks could reopen after the latest government guidance (Ben Birchall/PA)

Golf and tennis will be subject to strict government guidelines, with the former restricted to singles play or two-balls comprising individuals from different households, and the latter comprising singles play, unless doubles teams are all members of the same household.

The Board of British Equestrian has advised that the new advice allows for a return to limited training for riders – though that only pertains to England.

“The government’s relaxation on travel for exercise and call to return to work where you cannot do so from home means that one-to-one training is now permitted,” said a statement.

“Coaches can travel to yards for individual face-to-face training in controlled outdoor environments, while riders can also travel to have one-to-one lessons, as long as social distancing is adhered to throughout.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board has asked recreational players to give it “a little more time” to digest the latest government guidelines, subject to further clarity that is expected this week.

In a statement the ECB said: “We completely understand the level of patience that recreational players have had to demonstrate so far, and know that most will be desperate to return to the nets to practice.

“We ask for a little more time to plan out the best way to deliver this opportunity to everyone as safely as possible.”

Village cricket is not quite ready to return (Yui Mok/PA)
Village cricket is not quite ready to return (Yui Mok/PA)

The resumption of other individual elite programmes will be subject to further government guidance, which UK Sport expect to be disseminated this week, and for which decisions will need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth believes the news is positive for the wider population but advised the public to take a sensible approach.

“The necessary restrictions to combat the virus has already had a profound impact on people’s relationship with sport and activity and it has unavoidably denied people the great benefits that being active can bring,” he said.

“While it’s been fantastic that so many people have used this time to embrace activities like cycling and running, the slight change in the restrictions today, such as allowing unlimited outdoor exercise and the opening of many outdoor activities like tennis and golf, is something to be welcomed.

“However, we must proceed cautiously and the restarting of any activity should only be done in a safe and controlled manner. We urge everyone both those who are opening outdoor facilities and those taking part to be certain first that they can do so within the government guidance and in a safe and controlled manner. Many people and organisations will be desperate to get going again but there should be no rush.”

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