Tokyo 2020 organizers unveiled a mostly unchanged competition schedule for the delayed Summer Paralympics on Monday morning in Tokyo.
The games, which had originally been scheduled to take place this summer, will run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5 of 2021. The Paralympics were delayed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Other than the event times, however, the schedule mostly mirrors the one that would've been followed this year.
"There are no major changes to the schedule," Tokyo 2020 Games Delivery Officer Hidemasa Nakamura said.
There are 539 events across 22 sports scheduled for the 2020 Paralympics.
"Now that the new schedule has been decided, athletes will be able to set concrete goals," Tokyo 2020 Sports Director Koji Murofushi said. "We at Tokyo 2020 will be speeding up our efforts to prepare for the games next year."
The first medal of the games will be handed out on Aug. 25 in the women's track cycling C1-3 3,000-meter pursuit. There are 23 more medal events scheduled that day.
The busiest day of the games will be Aug. 29, or "Golden Sunday," when 63 medal events take place.
"I'm able to focus on which day the games will be held and can prepare my practice schedule," said Mitsuya Tanaka, a para taekwondo athlete currently ranked 11th in the world in the K43 61-kg category.
Tanaka's sport is one of two, badminton being the other, that are new editions to the Paralympic program for 2020.
The coronavirus remains the biggest obstacle for organizers to overcome in order to stage the games.
Japan, Tokyo in particular, has seen a resurgence in infections in recent weeks.
Nakamura said organizers are still in discussions among themselves and with national and international federations about how to deal with the virus. He said some items on the schedule may change depending on measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
For athletes like Tanaka, even with the schedule set, the virus is having an impact on their preparations for the games, which are now just over a year away.
"It became difficult to use gyms to practice after COVID-19," Tanaka said. "Taekwondo requires physical contact and there are restrictions regarding who I can practice with. We also use loud voices and shout in practices, but there are restrictions on that as well."
The 28-year-old says he working around the restrictions as best he can and looking forward to 2021.
"Not just me, I think many people are worried," he said. "However, I'm doing as much as possible and doing what I can in a safe environment. I think this is what athletes around the world are doing. I'm focusing on what I need to do and continuing with my training."
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