The spread of the coronavirus has forced millions all over the world to retreat to base and abandon outdoor exercise and gym sessions. If they own a big house and garden, it’s manageable, but many live in shacks, cramped houses or tiny high-rise flats. How can they avoid going to seed during lockdown? Former boxer and South African liberation struggle icon Nelson Mandela adapted while incarcerated in a tiny cell on Robben Island.
Feb. 15, 1990: Nelson Mandela wakes as always at 5am and begins his hour-long exercise routine. The difference this time is that instead of a prison cell, his gym is the front room of his “matchbox” house—so-called for its small size—at 8115 Vilakazi Street, Soweto. And soon he’ll be besieged by journalists, well-wishers, diplomats and family members.
I get to interview him a few hours later to ask about his plans. His answers are clear and concise and I’m too nervous to probe deeper. But towards the end I toss in a question about boxing, and his stern demeanor changes. He beams with delight and begins to chat about his favorite fighters and how he followed the sport in prison.
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