Athletes and NOCs react to postponement of Tokyo Olympic Games

Eliud Kipchoge, Teddy Riner and Mary Kom lead reactions to decision to delay Games until 2021.

By Rory Jiwani

Athletes, NOCs, and sports federations have been reacting to Tuesday's announcement that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games would be postponed until next year.

Eliud Kipchoge, who ran the first sub-two hour marathon in Vienna last October, called it "a wise decision" and said he was looking forward to defending his Olympic title.

He added that he wished everybody "good health in these challenging times" with the Kenyan admitting earlier this week "it's hard to train alone" after his training camp had to be disbanded due to coronavirus.

Double Olympic super-heavyweight judo champion Teddy Riner said, "First, we have a more important fight to win," referring to stopping COVID-19.

Riner, who lost his 10-year unbeaten record in Paris in February, turns 31 next month.

For double Olympic football gold medallist, Carli Lloyd, it means an extra year of training with the American planning to retire after the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Lloyd, who turns 38 this July, told Philadephia TV station 6abc, "This is bigger than sports. For the safety of everybody, it's definitely the best thing."

Meanwhile, star forward Alex Morgan gets an extra year to prepare for the Games with her first child due next month.

Five-time Olympic swimming gold medallist Katie Ledecky posted a photo of herself giving a clinic in the Japanese capital.

She spared a thought for all the health workers dealing with the COVID-19 virus and said, "We will all get through this together."

Her fellow USA Swimming star Caeleb Dressel told ESPN: "This is life and death. This is bigger than sports. Humanity should go before anybody's job or swim meet or anything.

"The way I look at it this is an extra year to prepare myself physically, emotionally, spiritually. If I keep talking about how much I love swimming, it shouldn't matter that it's been moved a year. This is my obsession. This is what I do."

Britain's 200m world champion Dina Asher-Smith posted an upbeat message reflecting her country adopting strict measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 on Monday.

Meanwhile American sprinter Noah Lyles, Asher-Smith's men's 200m world champion counterpart, told NBC: "Safety first.

"The last thing we want is for anybody to get sick. I can train for another year, but if the world goes through a crisis and everybody gets sick, we can’t even have the Olympics forever."

Japanese athletes have also weighed in.

Tennis player Nishikori Kei said on his official personal app: "It's a bit of a relief that it wasn't a cancellation, and I think postponing turned out to be a good solution for all players. I'm really happy the Olympics will still happen in Tokyo in 2021."

Basketball star and Washington Wizards forward Hachimura Rui said the delay would produce "an even greater celebration of both sport and life in my home country".

Having qualified for Tokyo 2020 in Amman earlier this month, the postponement means India's trailblazing boxer Mary Kom will be 38 when she appears at her second Games.

But the six-time world champion and London 2012 bronze medallist was full of praise for today's announcement.

Two-time Olympic diving medallist Tom Daley admitted that his body would feel the effects of being "another year older", but that the sacrifice was necessary to "help keep people safe".

London 2012 freestyle wrestling gold medallist Jordan Burroughs expressed his contrasting emotions at the delay of the Games.

Burroughs is seeking redemption in Tokyo after bouncing back from crushing disappointment at Rio 2016 with the help of mindfulness.

Burroughs further explained to ESPN: "It almost feels like a wasted year. Like it didn't even happen.

"There is just so much up in the air, shoved to the back burner."

Rio 2016 200m silver medallist Dafne Schippers, said she was looking forward to competing in Tokyo this summer but "for now we have to look at the bigger picture and do whatever it takes to beat the corona virus".

Asher Smith's compatriot, 2019 world heptathlon champion Katerina Johnson-Thompson, said the decision was "heartbreaking news" but that "it's for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone".

American kata karate exponent Sakura Kokumai was confirmed as having made Tokyo 2020 only this week at the end of the two-year qualification period.

She says she can wait another year, and you can hear her talk about her love of karate and how the COVID-19 outbreak saw her go from "travelling non-stop for two years living out of a suitcase to kind of being forced to being in one place" on the Olympic Channel Podcast available from Wednesday.

USA's double Olympic swimming gold medallist from Rio 2016, Lilly King, also opted for a short and simple message.

Although with three titles at last year's World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, does she need to "get better"?

Simone Biles' coach Cecile Landi, who represented France at Atlanta 1996, admitted that the delay would be heartbreaking for athletes, especially gymnasts, but that the postponement was "needed".

With Biles planning to retire after the Tokyo Games, the four-time Olympic champion from Rio 2016 will need to continue training for another year in order to add to her medal tally.

While the event will still be known as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Team USA artistic gymnast Alec Yoder had to make a small change to his dream chart.

In a message posted before today's official announcement, fellow artistic gymnast and All Around star Angelina Melnikova said she was "upset" but "now we have time!".

Rio 2016 floor bronze medallist Arthur Nory said, "This moment should not be one of regret, but of thanks."

He added, "Let's stay at home because the party next year will be beautiful!" and signed off, "WASH YOUR HANDS AND STAY AT HOME."

Former mountain bike cross-country world champion Kate Courtney is advocating patience, the American saying her dreams were "just on hold for a moment".

London 2012 triathlon gold medallist Nicola Spirig was hoping to be taking part in her fifth Olympic Games in July.

While the 38-year-old Swiss says she "fully supports" the decision to postpone the Games, she will discuss her options "with my family and team" in the coming weeks as to whether to extend her sporting career until next year.

Canada, the first nation to pull athletes out of the original event, thanked the IOC for postponing Tokyo 2020 and said it would offer "full support in helping navigate all the complexities the rescheduling the Games will bring".

A joint statement from the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee read, "With this postponement, the IOC has given Tokyo hopefuls worldwide the clarity they need about the immediate future, so we can all concentrate on our collective health and wellbeing and take all necessary steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

"We are confident that when the time comes, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will deliver a world-class Games that celebrates the Olympic and Paralympic values and unites and inspires the world." - Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee

Spain's national Olympic committee, COE, was quick to praise the announcement calling it "great news" which guarantees "equality for all athletes and safeguards their health".

Team GB, run by the British Olympic Association (BOA), expressed its wish for people around the world to "look after each other" ahead of next year's Games.

BOA chief executive Andy Anson said, "It would have been unthinkable for us to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games at a time the nation and the world no less is enduring great hardship. A postponement is the right decision."

The Paris 2024 Organising Committee praised the decision, saying, "The priority is the health of everyone and of the athletes.

"With solidarity, we will stand alongside the Japanese Organising Committee to provide our full support as it takes on the new organisational challenge."

World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari said, "The WBSC stands in solidarity with the Olympic Movement and Japan during this challenging time, and will remain fully flexible about its own events, including Olympic qualifiers, to accommodate the rescheduling of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"Baseball-softball’s anticipated Olympic comeback will have to wait a short while longer. But I have no doubt that when the Tokyo 2020 Games take place, our entire global family will rejoice as we make our long-awaited and spectacular return on the greatest sporting stage of all."

World Athletics welcomed the decision, saying, "It is what athletes want and we believe this decision will give all athletes, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times."

The body also revealed it has "already been in discussion been with the Organising Committee of the World Athletics Championships Oregon 21" with regard to a possible date change with "dates in 2022" being looked at for the event scheduled to be held on 6-15 August 2021.

FINA, the world governing body for aquatics, released a statement saying it would "now work closely" with the host organising committee of the 2021 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka and other stakeholders to see if the event - scheduled for 16 July-1 August next year - might be moved.

The president of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), Watanabe Morinari, said, "IOC President Thomas Bach and Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, have made a very courageous decision. In this difficult situation, we must be united and supportive."

The FIG reiterated that it will do everything necessary to adapt its events calendar to fit the new dates of the Games.

World Archery President Prof Dr Ugur Erdener said, "We commend the conscientious and brave decision taken by Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee to delay this summer’s Games in the face of an unprecedented challenge to humanity.

"This is not an easy situation, especially for the athletes who had been training hard for Tokyo 2020. I hope that everyone understands why this decision has been made and I urge archers around the world to retain hope and reset for this new timetable."

International Canoe Federation President Jose Perurena said.“We congratulate the IOC, the Japanese Government and Tokyo 2020 organisers for making this brave but essential decision."

World Pentathlon put out a message announcing the cancellation of the Pentathlon World Cup with the World Championships, which had already been moved from Xiamen, China to Cancun, Mexico, postponed from its scheduled date of 25-31 May.

India's badminton bronze medallist from London 2012, Saina Nehwal, was in full agreement with the decision to postpone the Games.

Three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, who won the men's doubles with Roger Federer at Beijing 2008, posted a picture of the pair with their Olympic gold medals.

Rio 2016 decathlon silver medallist Kevin Mayer spoke for many athletes, keeping his reaction short and sweet.

Germany's javelin gold medallist from Rio, Thomas Roehler, also opted for brevity.

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Tianna Bartoletta, in a message posted before today's official announcement, gave what looked like an order to herself and her fellow competitors.

At 33, Mexican diver Rommel Pacheco is aiming to appear at fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo.

He said the news was "difficult" but that "today the most important thing is everyone's health".

Italian rower Matteo Castaldo, who won bronze in the coxless four at Rio 2016, has been training in something akin to a shed whilst his country is under lockdown.

He posted a video of him on a rowing machine with another positive message.

Venezuelan karateka Antonio Diaz said, "I have waited over 20 years for my dream of going to the Olympic Games. I can wait one more without problem, and more if it is for the well-being of many."

Rio 2016 team pursuit gold medallist Elinor Barker said she was "devastated" at the decision to postpone the Games but that she fully understands and respects the reasons behind it.

Norwegian long distance track runner and steeplechaser Karoline Grovdal was looking forward to making her third Olympic Games appearance in Tokyo this year.

But she says she can wait until 2021.