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Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement

Tokyo 2020 Olympics, scheduled from 24 July to 9 August, was postponed to no later than summer of 2021 on 24 March.

Updated
Olympic Sports
5 min read
 India’s Sharath Kamal (left), Mary Kom (centre), Bajrang Punia, along with other athletes from India, welcomed IOC’s decision to postpone the Tokyo Games by a year.
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Life comes first, sport can wait. This was the collective view of India's top Olympic-bound athletes, including stalwarts such as MC Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal, as they lauded the Tokyo Games' postponement amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has pushed the world into chaos.

The quadrennial showpiece, scheduled from 24 July to 9 August in Tokyo, was postponed to no later than summer of 2021 after a telephonic conversation between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday.

“Everyone who took this decision factored this in. I think it's good for everyone," celebrated boxer Mary Kom, a bronze-medallist at London 2012 who was gearing up for her second Olympics, told PTI.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“The situation right now is not good. Life always comes first, everything else can wait. Players’ safety is paramount.”
MC Mary Kom

"Now I get more time to prepare, our training plans can be extended. And it's not just for me, it is true for everyone around the world," she added.

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Saina, also a bronze-winner at the 2012 Games, held a similar view. She was racing against time to qualify for Tokyo after all the qualifying events stood cancelled due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which has caused more than 16,000 deaths worldwide.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“Happy that it’s postponed even though some of us haven’t qualified. We are eager to know what the qualification (process) would be like going ahead.”
Saina Nehwal

"As an athlete who's played Olympics before I would say it's good as everyone can chill now and not worry about preparations amid a lockdown. We all have to be safe first and then we can think about preparations," she added, referring to the lockdown in India to contain the pandemic.

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Star wrestler Bajrang Punia, who is eyeing an Olympic medal on debut, said training had been thrown haywire by the pandemic and the postponement is welcome.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“It’s a good decision because everyone is disturbed. Athletes’ health is paramount. No one is training properly. It’s not just about India, it’s also about the entire world. We first have to save people from this epidemic.”
Bajrang Punia

Former world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu also felt that the decision is good for athletes.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“Whatever happens, happens for a good reason. Now we have more time to prepare. It’s good for my performance. I will continue training.”
Mirabai Chanu
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Shooter Rahi Sarnobat, who qualified in the 25m air pistol event, said with her training hampered by a nationwide lockdown, she is feeling relieved. India has close to 500 COVID-19 positive cases and has recorded 11 deaths so far.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“...since training had stopped, we would have needed another three-four months time to prepare. So, we wanted postponement. Now we can refresh ourselves and restart the competitions (training).”
Rahi Sarnobat

Wrestler Ravi Dahiya, who qualified in the 57kg category with a bronze medal winning performance at the 2019 World Championship, said he would use the time to toughen up a bit more for his debut at the big stage.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“We were prepared for this year’s Olympics. We were ready but what do you do when something like this happens. It’s beyond everyone’s control. We will again prepare for 2021.”
Ravi Dahiya

"I would have fought well this year also, but now I have more time to toughen up," he added.

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The doubles badminton pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who were also set for their maiden appearance at the Games, echoed the majority sentiment.

"At the moment it's the right decision to take," Shetty said.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“It’s sad but at the moment it is a sensible decision to take...there’s disappointment obviously but well things are not really in your hand.”
Chirag Shetty

Men's hockey coach Graham Reid said the team is gutted by the postponement but understands the gravity of the health crisis.

“It is very disappointing that the Olympics will not go ahead in 2020, but given the unprecedented circumstances facing the world at present it is totally understandable and expected.”
Graham Reid, India Men’s Hockey Coach

The view was shared by his counterpart with the Indian women's team, Sjoerd Marijne.

"I just had a meeting with the team and broke this news to the group. Though it is disappointing, the girls told me, 'It's ok, Coach. We will continue to work the way we are and this probably gives us more time to prepare for the Olympic Games and be our best'," he said.

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Archer Deepika Kumari, on the other hand, heaved a sigh of relief.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“Like they say, ‘Jaan hai toh jahaan hai (if there’s life, then there’s world). Firstly, I just pray that everything returns to normal and the world is safe from coronavirus soon.”
Deepika Kumari

"Not only me, all athletes are affected because of the pandemic. So we will just have to wait and watch and hope to sail through the phase," she said.

Rifle shooter Anjum Moudgil agreed.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)

"...it was really required as no athlete is able to train all over the world...it's good that the Olympic is postponed and now we have proper time to train and prepare and plan," she said.

Veteran TT player A Sharath Kamal, who would have qualified for the Olympics men's doubles event along with G Sathiyan based on rankings, said given the scenario, there couldn't have been any other choice.

Life Comes First: India’s Tokyo-Bound Athletes Hail Postponement
(Gfx: Kamran Akhter/The Quint)
“I think that’s the best that can happen in this situation but as an athlete it’s a bit hard as a lot of training has gone in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. Now the preparation has to carry on for another one more year.”
Sharath Kamal

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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