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Athletes respond to postponement of Olympic Games

14:20 29/03/2020
From Flanders Today

Belgium's athletes and sports bodies say they agree with the decision to postpone this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo as a result of the coronavirus. The games will now be held next year on the recommendation of the World Health Organization.

A survey by the Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee (BOIC) among athletes and federations showed that 75% supported the move. “The decision to postpone the Tokyo Games is a responsible one,” said Olav Spahl, elite sports director at the BOIC. “I’m also glad that they made the decision now and didn’t wait any longer. For a while our athletes have been living in uncertainty; now they can move forward, make plans and focus on their sport.”

Of course there is still disappointment among athletes. Hurdler Eline Berings (pictured) had hoped to end her career in Tokyo and will have to decide whether to retire now or keep going for another year.

“We had all been keeping this scenario in mind,” the 33-year-old told VRT. “But now that it has happened, it’s a real blow. We’ll need time to process the news. As long as there was a chance the Games would go ahead, we kept training, because that’s what we’ve been working on all these years. Our whole life, every minute of every day, was organised with the Olympics in mind.”

The Red Lions, Belgium’s men’s hockey team, are already the world and European champions, and had been hoping for a unique treble by adding the Olympic crown to their honours in Tokyo.

“In 2021, we’ll be even stronger,” said Marc Coudron, chair of the Hockey Union. “They have what it takes to continue to dominate men’s hockey. But for many athletes this is a tough blow. Some of our players had thought they would end their careers on top at the Games this summer in Tokyo. They will be able to play for another year, but the competition from the younger generation is getting stronger.”

Swimmer Fanny Lecluyse, meanwhile, told Bruzz that she agreed with the decision but had hoped for a shorter delay. And for triathlete Claire Michel and judoka Toma Nikiforov, the postponement gives them a chance to recover from injuries in time for the rescheduled Games.

The Olympics had been scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August, with the Paralympics from 25 August to 6 September. The events will now be pushed back to summer 2021 at the latest.

Photo: Jasper Jacobs/BELGA

Written by Sally Tipper (Flanders Today)