General

Japan's athletes and sports associations brace for impact of emergency declaration

KYODO

Already reeling from the chaos caused by the spread of the new coronavirus, sporting bodies in Japan are expecting further disruption from the state of emergency Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared in parts of the country on Tuesday.

Though most sports organizations say Abe's move, which comes in response to a sudden increase in cases in densely populated parts of the nation, is no surprise, they are struggling to keep up with the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Abe said Monday he would issue the declaration to cover Tokyo and nearby Kanagawa, plus Saitama and Chiba prefectures as well as Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures in the west and southwest.

Tsuyoshi Aoki, President of the Japan Swimming Federation, said his organization had been planning ahead for this scenario.

"We have to ask athletes to handle the situation on their own," he said. "The sad thing is, what can you do when you can't use the pool?"

In most cases, sporting bodies are leaving it to individual athletes to decide how they deal with the loss of training opportunities, while coaches are attempting to keep their athletes' training on track.

Karateka Kiyo Shimizu's coach, Tetsuya Furukawa, normally visits his athlete at her Osaka training base, but said the pair are preparing to transition to online instruction as the virus continues to disrupt travel, including shinkansen services.

"We're setting up a system where I can watch her workouts via online videos," Furukawa said.

The Japan Table Tennis Association cut short its training camp at the National Training Center, wrapping up practices on Saturday.

Japan head coach Yosuke Kurashima was surprised with the fast-moving, constantly changing COVID-19 situation, saying, "Just a few weeks ago we were told the NTC is the safest place to train."

After pushback from athletes, fencing officials decided not to restart training as scheduled on Monday.

"It's hard to focus on sports in times like these," said Yusuke Fukuda, the developmental director of the Japan Fencing Federation.

Japan Canoe Federation vice chairman Osahiro Haruzono explained that its athletes are spread across the country, so unless access to sites is specifically restricted after Abe's state of emergency declaration, they will not have to worry about losing training spaces overnight.

The men's national volleyball team is still in the middle of its training camp, but Japan Volleyball Association General Secretary Yoshinori Kaji said, they had “no option but to call it off within the next couple of days."

Nippon Surfing Association executive Tomijiro Munakata said, "It's going to be a tough call to ask surfers to stay out of the ocean."

Meanwhile, other bodies expressed sympathy for their athletes' plight and sent positive messages, reminding them that the pandemic will pass.

Jun Konno, a senior official at the All Japan Judo Federation, said, "I know it's a frustrating time for athletes but I want them to persevere in order to take care of their own health and protect others."

An official from the taekwondo national team said, "We can always catch up on what we've missed. Now we have to be patient."

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