Olympics: Singapore athletes in favour of getting vaccinated ahead of Tokyo Games

S'pore athletes feel safer, have peace of mind; shooting body will await advice

Jonathan Chan, the first Singapore diver to qualify for the Olympics, getting ready to plunge from the 10m platform in training.
Jonathan Chan, the first Singapore diver to qualify for the Olympics, getting ready to plunge from the 10m platform in training.ST FILE PHOTO

The Republic's Olympic-bound athletes believe a coronavirus vaccine will be a shot in the arm for the successful staging of next year's Tokyo Games, and are ready to take one should it become available.

Singapore will be represented in diving, gymnastics, sailing, shooting, swimming and table tennis, while national shuttlers Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min and fencer Amita Berthier remain in the hunt for an Olympic spot. Diver Jonathan Chan, who is set to make his Olympic debut, said: "If there is a vaccine, I'll definitely feel safer, and it's good to know that the organisers are trying to do all they can to keep participants safe."

The 23-year-old is an architecture major at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and will have to balance school and training in the lead up to next year's July 23-Aug 8 Games.

World No. 9 paddler Feng Tianwei, a three-time Olympic medallist and veteran of more than 10 major Games, shared that vaccines have been par for the course as a precaution for region-specific diseases such as the Zika virus in Brazil during the 2016 Olympics.

The 34-year-old returned to competitive action at the Nov 8-10 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Women's World Cup in Weihai, China where she suffered a shock early exit and is competing in this week's ITTF Finals. She added: "If there is an effective vaccine, it only makes sense for us to take it for our own health, safety and peace of mind."

During this week's trip to Tokyo, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he is "encouraging" all Olympic participants and fans to be vaccinated even if it will not be compulsory.

"We want to convince as many foreign participants as possible to accept a vaccine," the 66-year-old German said on Monday, as he expressed confidence that the postponed Games will open on July 23.

Moderna had revealed on Monday that its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19, based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial.

Earlier, Pfizer's vaccine also reported an effectiveness of more than 90 per cent, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could have two vaccines authorised for emergency use next month, with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available by the year's end.

However, Singapore Shooting Association president Michael Vaz urged caution and will wait for advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) before committing his athletes to the postponed Olympic Games.

Singapore have secured one spot in the women's 10m air rifle but are aiming to add places in the 50m rifle three positions, 25m pistol and 10m air pistol via the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup events in Delhi and Changwon, South Korea next March and April respectively.

Vaz said: "I'm also a parent, and our No. 1 concern is the health and safety of our athletes. We won't force our shooters to go for any overseas events in this case, and there are no obligations or penalties if they do not wish to go.

"It is up to them and their parents to decide, and we will depend on WHO and MOH to guide us.

"I'm not a doctor and I do not know whether a reliable vaccine will be out in time for the Olympics. I hope so, and I also hope for effective treatment so that at least people can be assured they can recover from the virus even if they get it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2020, with the headline 'Olympians want vaccine'. Print Edition | Subscribe