Two of South Africa’s Olympic medal hopefuls remain confident of challenging for podium places at the Tokyo Games, despite the showpiece being postponed until next year.
The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) welcomed the decision on Tuesday after the International Olympic Committee and the local organising committee announced that the Games would be held in 2021 due to coronavirus concerns.
“Due to the restrictions in travelling and cancellation of most of the qualification events, it was already proving a challenge for our potential Olympians and Paralympians to qualify and train adequately in preparation of the Games,” SASCOCsaid.
African 100m champion Akani Simbine, who reached the short sprint final at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was pleased a decision had been made, four months ahead of the Games.
He was nonetheless disappointed to have the standard four-year cycle extended.
“I’m happy the Games are postponed because this has been a year of uncertainty and we can’t really get the right training in with all the disturbances we’ve had around the coronavirus,” Simbine said.
“But I’m also pretty sad about it because this was the year we were all building up to, and now we have to wait another year.
“That wasn’t part of our plans, but now we need to change around and make sure we are ready for next year.”
South Africa, it is time to make the right choices. #CoronavirusSA is real and the only way to stop the spread, is to all play our part. Learn the facts – @Discovery_sa’s #COVID19 information Hub gives the latest guidance and advice when you need it most https://t.co/nLzmOMnadA. pic.twitter.com/okByuLaZdQ
— Wayde van Niekerk (@WaydeDreamer) March 22, 2020
Fellow sprinter Wayde van Niekerk, who broke the 400m world record to win gold in Rio four years ago, admitted he was relieved by the decision.
“I try and see the positive in it,” said Van Niekerk, who was still on the comeback trail after recovering from a serious knee injury.
“I see it as more time to prepare, more time to work, and more time to invest in my career.
“Tokyo is another stepping stone to the entire legacy I want to leave behind, so this gives me more time to strengthen myself so I can be in even better shape for the Olympic Games.
“So as much as it is a bit of a downer not having it this year, it is still happening and it’s going to be another opportunity for us to do our best and to showcase our talent.”
Wesley Botton – Citizen