Some of Japan’s top athletes have expressed mixed feelings following Tuesday’s announcement that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee had agreed to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics for “about a year” amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Veteran female sport climber Akiyo Noguchi said in an Instagram post Tuesday night that she “can’t find the right way to control my mind” upon learning the unprecedented news (in peacetime) of the games being delayed.
“But I’ve set the Tokyo Olympics in August as the final stage I’ll compete on, so I’ll take it as a positive that I’ll be able to spend more time as an athlete,” the 30-year-old climber added. Noguchi intends to retire from the sport following the Olympics.
Tomoa Narasaki, a male climber and the reigning IFSC World Championships combined gold medalist, didn’t mask his confusion over the situation.
Yet in an Instagram post, he said his goal, which is to win gold, would remain unchanged no matter when he hits the wall at the Olympics.
“For athletes like us, the Olympics are a big goal and a dream,” said Narasaki, who is considered to be among the Japanese athletes who have the best chance of winning gold during the games.
“I’m hoping that this situation comes to an end as early as possible, and praying that athletes from around the world will be able to compete in a fair circumstance at the Olympics, I’ll keep working on what I can for now, he added.” Both Narasaki and Noguchi have already punched their tickets for the games in sport climbing, which will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
Tennis star Kei Nishikori appeared to greet the news with relief, largely because of the way the spread of the coronavirus has impacted the world.
Speaking from Florida in a video message posted on his official website, Nishikori also said he was relieved to learn the games would not be canceled.
The 30-year-old added that it may be hard on some of the athletes who had tried to reach their peak for this summer.
But he feels that, overall, postponement is the most fair solution for athletes, many of whom have not been able to train as sufficiently as they normally do because of the chaotic situation in many parts of the world.
“So hopefully, I’ll get myself ready as best as I can so that I can enter the games in better shape,” said Nishikori, who won a bronze medal in the men’s singles at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Ritsu Doan, a midfielder for PSC Eindhoven of the Dutch league, said in his Instagram post that he certainly has many thoughts about the postponement, but appreciates that the organizers made the decision sooner rather than later. IOC President Thomas Bach said Sunday that the committee would give itself four weeks to consider all options.
“I take it very positively that now I have a brand-new goal toward next year,” Doan said. “Of course, there are different reactions to it, but the world, not just Japan, needs to get together to overcome this crisis. And we the athletes will make sure we’ll train hard toward next year and hopefully we’ll provide some positive emotions to you, the fans.” Kenki Fukuoka, who starred for Japan at last fall’s Rugby World Cup, has said he would hang up his cleats after the Olympics, where he’d be competing in the men’s rugby sevens competition, to pursue his dream of becoming a medical doctor.
The swift-footed winger put on a brave face in a Twitter post, saying, “It won’t help to think about what you can’t control. I’ll keep working the best I can!” Freestyle swimmer Shinri Shioura said on his YouTube channel that the postponement had been expected. But like Fukuoka, Shioura said that the decision has been made and he won’t dwell on it much, since it’s not something he has control over.
The 28-year-old, who earned bronze in the men’s 4×100 medley relay at the world championships in Barcelona in 2013 and a pair of golds (in the 100 freestyle and 400-meter freestyle relay), said that he has been “given a chance to get faster with the preparation period having been extended.”
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