When Tokyo won the rights to host the 2020 Summer Games in 2013, retired top fencer Kenichi Chida was determined to find a role to play, having been one of the "phantom athletes" who never made it to the boycotted 1980 Games in Moscow.

Born in the northeastern coastal city of Kesennuma, where more than 1,100 people perished in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Chida was penciled in to carry the Olympic torch in his hometown in June as one of 65 runners to participate in the Miyagi Prefecture leg of the relay, ending what would have been a 40-year wait for an "Olympics appearance."

But four days after the flame arrived in the prefecture from Greece, the raging coronavirus pandemic forced the games to be postponed until 2021. The nationwide relay was also put on hold, but Chida was relieved that the worst-case scenario — the cancellation of the games altogether — was averted.