Coronavirus pandemic: Olympics postponement

Uncertainty for some amid positivity

Relief at the right decision but athletes on wrong side of 30 may not get last hurrah

Olympic champion Adam Peaty (25, above) is in his prime while American Ryan Lochte, 35, may have to prolong his career to get another shot at the Olympics next year. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Olympic champion Adam Peaty (25, above) is in his prime while American Ryan Lochte, 35, may have to prolong his career to get another shot at the Olympics next year. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Prospective Olympic competitors were quick out of the blocks on Tuesday after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year and many gave the decision the thumbs up on social media.

Most athletes were disappointed but relieved and felt that it was the right call amid the coronavirus pandemic which has brought global sport to a standstill.

After weeks of speculation and criticism of the delay in announcing a postponement, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach agreed the multi-sport event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest.

America-born Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, who has set his sights on gold in Tokyo after breaking the world record twice this year, said losing the opportunity to do so was a "bummer".

However, he added: "But you have to understand the situation, understand that some things are a little bigger than sport."

Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge called it a wise decision, saying: "I look forward to defending my Olympic title next year. I wish everybody good health in these challenging times."

Their sentiments were echoed by World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.

He said: "It's by a distance the right decision. The world is in a really difficult, dangerous situation.

"Sport can be no different... just simply, it felt wrong to continue along that road given where the rest of the world is at the moment."

In the aquatic fraternity, swimmers and divers also agreed that health should be the priority now.

Britain's 100m Olympic breaststroke champion Adam Peaty said: "As an athlete, I am obviously extremely disappointed but this is a matter of life or death and we all need to do the right thing."

Sweden's 100m butterfly champion Sarah Sjostrom and American Lilly King, a double gold medallist at Rio 2016, both felt that it was "just one more year to get better" for themselves and also for the younger swimmers.

British diver Tom Daley, who won bronzes at the last two Games, said the extra year would take a toll but the 25-year-old remained positive, saying: "Yes, I'll be another year older and my body will feel that. But I promise to work my tail off."

RIGHT THING TO DO

As an athlete, I am obviously extremely disappointed but this is a matter of life or death and we all need to do the right thing.

ADAM PEATY, Britain's 100m breaststroke Olympic gold medallist.

MANY FACTORS TO SUCCESS

This has been a sobering reminder that we are not owed our dreams. Those dreams do not come free and you do not accomplish them alone.

ALLYSON FELIX, the 34-year-old American track star who has six Games golds, on how the coronavirus pandemic has put things in perspective.

For others, like the 23-year-old US gymnast Simone Biles who had planned to retire after Tokyo, it also means another year of hard work.

But her coach Cecile Landi tweeted: "We will regroup and replan to get back strong for 2021."

While the mood was largely positive, there is uncertainty for several veterans.

Ryan Lochte's Olympic window may be closing, but the swimmer, 35, is ready to push on another year.

"I was a little p****d off because I've been training my butt off and I've been feeling great," the 12-time Olympic medallist told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.

"But this whole thing is way bigger than me. It's affecting the entire world right now."

Fellow American Allyson Felix, 34, will also plough on.

The sprint star and new mum is in the last lap of a glittering career that has seen her earn 13 world titles and six Olympic golds - the most of any female track and field athlete.

"I've woken up every morning for the last 6,055 days, since I was 17 years old, relentlessly pursuing Olympic Gold," she wrote in an article posted on Time.com.

"This has been a sobering reminder that we are not owed our dreams. Those dreams do not come free and you do not accomplish them alone."

Lin Dan, the 36-year-old badminton star and two-time Olympic champion, looks set to finally call it a day on a 20-year career.

The world No. 26 is now only the fifth-highest ranked player in China, behind Chen Long (No. 5), Shi Yuqi (No. 11), Huang Yuxiang (No. 21) and Lu Guangzu (No. 23).

A country can send a maximum of two shuttlers only if both are ranked in the top 16, meaning that Lin will miss out on Tokyo.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2020, with the headline 'Uncertainty for some amid positivity'. Subscribe