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Athletes react to postponement of Tokyo Olympic Games

Teddy Riner Getty Images
24 Mar 2020
Olympic News, IOC News, Tokyo 2020
Teddy Riner, Dina Asher Smith and Mary Kom lead reactions to decision to delay Games until 2021.

Athletes, NOCs, and sports federations have been reacting to Tuesday's announcement that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would be postponed until next year.

Double Olympic super-heavyweight judo champion Teddy Riner said, "First, we have a more important fight to win" referring to stopping COVID-19. Riner, who lost his 10-year unbeaten record in Paris in February, turns 31 next month.

Britain's 200m world champion Dina Asher Smith posted an upbeat message reflecting her country adopting strict measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 on Monday.

Two-time Olympic diving medallist Tom Daley admitted that his body would feel the effects of being "another year older", but that the sacrifice was necessary to "help keep people safe".

Rio 2016 200m silver medallist Dafne Schippers, said she was looking forward to competing in Tokyo this summer but "for now we have to look at the bigger picture and do whatever it takes to beat the corona virus".

Asher Smith's compatriot, 2019 world heptathlon champion Katerina Johnson-Thompson, said the decision was "heartbreaking news" but that "it's for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone".

Having qualified for Tokyo 2020 in Amman earlier this month, the postponement means India's trailblazing boxer Mary Kom will be 38 when she appears at her second Games.

But the six-time world champion and London 2012 bronze medallist was full of praise for today's announcement.

American kata karate exponent Sakura Kokumai was confirmed as having made Tokyo 2020 only this week at the end of the two-year qualification period.

She says she can wait another year, and you can hear her talk about her love of karate and how the COVID-19 outbreak saw her go from "travelling non-stop for two years living out of a suitcase to kind of being forced to being in one place" on the Olympic Channel Podcast available from Wednesday.

USA's double Olympic swimming gold medallist from Rio 2016, Lilly King, also opted for a short and simple message.

Although with three titles at last year's World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, does she need to "get better"?

Simone Biles' coach Cecile Landi, who represented France at Atlanta 1996, admitted that the delay would be heartbreaking for athletes, especially gymnasts, but that the postponement was "needed".

With Biles planning to retire after the Tokyo Games, the four-time Olympic champion from Rio 2016 will need to continue training for another year in order to add to her medal tally.

In a message posted before today's official announcement, fellow artistic gymnast and All Around star Angelina Melnikova said she was "upset" but "now we have time!".

View this post on Instagram

I'm sorry about the Olympic Games❤️ . I’m very excited and now I’m very upset, we are all very upset. But now we have time!🕝 It’s most important to us☝🏼 It’s always lacking!😒 And now you have it to improve yourself! 💫 I understand the athletes who were preparing to perform this summer☀️🏃🏼‍♀️ It’s very difficult for me too.😞 I hope we’ll play these games ever💪🏼🇯🇵 I hope you and your loved ones will be healthy! 💊 This is the most important thing take care of yourself💋 Love you and I’ll do my best gymnastics ever🥰 Let’s go with me🏃🏼‍♀️❤️

A post shared by Ангелина Мельникова (@gelyamelnikova) on

Former mountain bike cross-country world champion Kate Courtney is advocating patience, the American saying her dreams were "just on hold for a moment".

London 2012 triathlon gold medallist Nicola Spirig was hoping to be taking part in her fifth Olympic Games in July.

While the 38-year-old Swiss says she "fully supports" the decision to postpone the Games, she will discuss her options "with my family and team" in the coming weeks as to whether to extend her sporting career until next year.

View this post on Instagram

For the past months, I have been working daily towards my goal of competing at my fifth Olympic Summer Games. While I was highly motivated, the uncertainties in the past weeks proved to be increasingly difficult. I am therefore glad to have clarity now and fully support the IOC’s decision to postpone the Olympic Games by one year. I think it is in the best interest of all athletes, coaches and everyone else involved. People's health and well-being absolutely must come first. As far as my sporting future is concerned, the decision obviously has an impact. I will take my time and discuss my options together with my family and team before coming to a decision in the weeks to come. All the best to everyone

A post shared by Nicola Spirig (@nicolaspirigofficial) on

India's badminton bronze medallist from London 2012, Saina Nehwal, was in full agreement with the decision to postpone the Games.

Rio 2016 decathlon silver medallist Kevin Mayer spoke for many athletes, keeping his reaction short and sweet.

Germany's javelin gold medallist from Rio, Thomas Roehler, also opted for brevity.

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Tianna Bartoletta, in a message posted before today's official announcement, gave what looked like an order to herself and her fellow competitors.

At 33, Mexican diver Rommel Pacheco is aiming to appear at fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo.

He said the news was "difficult" but that "today the most important thing is everyone's health".

Italian rower Matteo Castaldo, who won bronze in the coxless four at Rio 2016, has been training in something akin to a shed whilst his country is under lockdown.

He posted a video of him on a rowing machine with another positive message.

Venezuelan karateka Antonio Diaz said, "I have waited over 20 years for my dream of going to the Olympic Games. I can wait one more without problem, and more if it is for the well-being of many."

Rio 2016 team pursuit gold medallist Elinor Barker said she was "devastated" at the decision to postpone the Games but that she fully understands and respects the reasons behind it.

Norwegian long distance track runner and steeplechaser Karoline Grovdal was looking forward to making her third Olympic Games appearance in Tokyo this year.

But she says she can wait until 2021.

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