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Tokyo Olympics can wait insist hopefuls

By Matt Maher | Athletics | Published:

West Midlands Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls have reacted with disappointment but relief that the 2020 Tokyo Games have been postponed by a year.

Great Britain's Tully Kearney

The Games are the highest profile sporting casualty of the coronavirus pandemic so far, with organisers finally admitting defeat yesterday after desperate attempts to keep the events this summer.

Wolverhampton Olympic hero Kristian Thomas reckons athletes will be experiencing a mixture of disappointment and relief at the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

London 2012 gymnastics bronze medallist Thomas, who works as an administrator for the British Olympic Association following his retirement from the sport, believes the vast majority of athletes will be supportive of the decision.

He said: “If you are an athlete and you have trained hard all year round for the Olympics there is obviously going to be an element of disappointment the Games are not taking place.

“But I think with the way things are at the minute, there will also be a bit of relief too.

“I think a lot of athletes felt they were in a position where they weren’t sure whether to follow their social responsibility of carry on training. At least now they have some clarity on the situation.”

Thomas, who was part of the British men’s team which claimed bronze eight years ago, sits on the Athletes Commission for the BOA, while he also works part-time as an engagement manager for the British Athletes Commission. His last few days had been spent canvassing opinion from top level athletes on the situation.

Thomas explained: “The views of the athletes are hugely important and I think everyone feels postponing the Games was the right decision. “Some things are a lot bigger than sport. Probably a week ago you would have everyone still training as normal but we have to be able to adapt.”

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Para-swimmer Tully Kearney, from Aldridge, shared the disappointment but said athletes’ health and safety had to come first. “It is a big disappointment but the most important thing is the safety of athletes competing,” said the 22-year-old. “I missed out on the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics through illness so I was working hard to be in Tokyo.

“However, athletes need time to train and prepare and people can’t do that in their back gardens. I’ve been through quite a tough time with injury and operations and I never thought I’d be able to get back to the level I’m at so this may be a blessing in disguise for me; I’ll have time to prepare and be in the best possible condition when the Games do eventually come around.”

Olympic Judo hopeful Gemma Howell also backed the decision. Wolverhampton Judo Club’s Howell is battling fellow Brit Sally Conway for the one Team GB spot at the sporting spectacular.

Great Britain's Gemma Howell

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And her hopes of overtaking Conway in the qualification battle had been hit after the cancellation of the Grand Slam in Russia and Grand Prix competitions in Turkey and Georgia.

“I’m happy. The health of family and friends is more important than anything and that would have been a worry,” said Howell, from Telford.

“I think I’ll qualify but I have to be ahead of Sally and with those competitions gone they were lost opportunities to overtake her. We don’t know how it’s going to work but it means I’ll get a chance and that’s all I can ask for.”

“Right now we’re in our back gardens training and obviously you can’t achieve what you would at the (Judo) centre every day.”

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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