Delaying Olympics is the ‘right decision’, say Singapore's athletes
Singapore's athletes take it in their stride, saying that the health and safety of athletes and fans is paramount
Singapore's 100m butterfly Olympic champion Joseph Schooling will not defend his gold this summer, after the announcement to postpone the Tokyo Games in the light of Covid-19 was made yesterday.
The decision to reschedule the July 24-Aug 9 Games to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, was made after Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), held a conference call with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo yesterday.
It was also decided that the delayed Games would still be branded "Tokyo 2020".
Schooling, who had earned a spot in Tokyo at the SEA Games last year, hailed the decision as the "right move", a sentiment echoed by other athletes as well.
"This is undoubtedly a tough call, but not an unexpected one," the 24-year-old said.
"I believe this is the right move, so as to not endanger the health and well-being of athletes and the public.
"As athletes, we need to focus on being prepared and giving ourselves the best possible chance of success at the largest sporting event in the world.
"This decision gives us clarity as we recalibrate and work out the best plan around the new dates of the 2020 Games...
"By keeping calm, staying united and being socially responsible, I believe we can overcome the challenging times ahead and beat the virus."
Along with Schooling, fellow swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, diver Jonathan Chan and gymnast Tan Sze En have earned their spots at the 2020 Games, while Singapore will also be represented in sailing, shooting and table tennis.
The women's table tennis team, who won a silver at Beijing 2008 and a bronze at London 2012, booked their spot in January. Countries who have earned a team berth also gain two slots in the women's singles.
"For an athlete, it is a privilege to be able to participate in the Olympics," said world No. 55 Yu Mengyu.
"However, the postponement is in the athletes' best interest... I look forward to the Games and I encourage all athletes not to be affected by the Covid-19 situation, but continue to train hard for the Games."
IN OUR HANDS
Sailing duo Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low, the Asian Games champions in the 49erFX class, said in a joint statement: "We believe that the decision to postpone the Games will be the fairest and safest option.
"Being informed, we have already mentally prepared ourselves for this postponement. ..
"Thus, it is in our hands to best utilise the cards we have been dealt with."
The postponement came as a relief to sailor Justin Liu, whose bid to qualify unravelled as the coronavirus upset his plans.
The 28-year-old and his Nacra 17 partner Denise Lim had initially pencilled in the Asian Sailing Championships in Shanghai, China, this month to serve as their qualifier.
However, the event was cancelled, though governing body World Sailing allowed the April 11- 19 Hempel World Cup Series in Genoa, Italy, to be used as qualifiers.
Consequently, the pair had their equipment moved to Italy, before learning that the event was also cancelled.
And with travel restrictions further hindering them, the duo returned to Singapore without their equipment.
"The postponement was probably necessary under the current situation," Liu told The New Paper.
"For us, we were dealing with a lot of uncertainty the past weeks... At least knowing this, there is some time frame that we can now work with."
Singapore's top male shuttler Loh Kean Yew is another who has been putting in the hours to get a ticket to Japan.
"While it is disappointing that the Olympics got postponed... the safety of everyone involved is the most important and I understand that this is a necessary measure," the world No. 36 said.
"So the only thing I can control now is continue to train hard during this period while taking good care of myself."
In a statement issued last night, the Singapore National Olympic Council said it will "regroup with the affected national sports associations to review any changes and updates from their respective international federations on the qualification process, and revisions to their selection policies if any, and address any concerns from our athletes".