'Heartbreaking but the right decision' - Athletes react to Olympics postponement

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Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Dina Asher-Smith

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ByEurosport UK
25/03/2020 at 09:38 | Updated 25/03/2020 at 10:44

Athletes have expressed a mixture of relief and disappointment after the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed on Tuesday.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the globe the decision to postpone the Games until 2021 was announced following a phone call between International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

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The news meant that the Games were delayed for the first time in its 124-year modern history.

Athletes across all sports have expressed a range of emotions at missing out on an Olympics this year, with swimmer Adam Peaty insisting the overriding feeling was one of relief.

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"Waiting one more year to reach for our dreams is well worth the sacrifice to help keep people safe," he said. "Yes, I'll be another year older, and my body will feel that, but I promise to work my tail off to make Team GB as proud as I can when the time comes!"

Heptathlon world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson shared the sentiment:

Triathlete Alistair Brownlee, who was hoping to win his third successive gold medal this summer, said that he was pleased the IOC had done the right thing.

“It is one of the oldest adages around that athletes have to be super cut-throat and very selfish, and that is true,” he said. “But right now all the resources that can possibly fight this virus must be used for that and not on a sporting event.

"From an athlete perspective, it was really important it was done now and not in another month’s time. To go so hard in preparing for the Olympic Games only to be told weeks out that it would be postponed would be so much worse."

World champions sprinter Dina Asher-Smith has been critical of the delay but was upbeat upon hearing Tuesday's news.

Double Olympic champion Jade Jones says it will be "mentally tough" to think about training for another year.

“I’m truly gutted – you give your heart and soul to something for four years then for it not to go ahead is just horrible," said the 27-year-old taekwondo star.

“Obviously health comes first, and my biggest priority right now is protecting my family and my loved ones, and doing everything I can do to help save the lives of others. But as an elite athlete, it is very demotivating and mentally tough.

Jade Jones won gold at Rio 2016

Image credit: Reuters

“I’m a very positive person but the idea, right now, of having to devote myself to another year’s slog is a very difficult one.”

Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam says she is relieved but disappointed.

“It was good that we have now got an answer,” she told Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.

“It’s good the uncertainty is cleared up. But as an athlete I find it sad, because since 2016 all my focus has been on Tokyo 2020. As an athlete you dream of these sort of competitions. But it is a good decision and I have to accept it."

Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics and double Olympic gold medalist, said his organisation would be willing to move its world championships, scheduled for Oregon in August 2021, to make way for the Olympics next year.

“The decision the IOC has taken is absolutely the right one,” he added. “You can’t have athletes locked in their houses, not able to train or use public facilities, then clearly the integrity of the competition was going to disappear.”

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