1000 NZ athletes affected by decision to postpone Olympic Games

updated By Jessica Tyson

Up to 1000 New Zealand athletes training to qualify for the 2020 Olympics have been affected by the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The decision was announced this morning to delay the Games until no later than the summer of 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  

Tainui swimmer Lewis Clareburt says the decision was disappointing but he understands considering the impact if COVID-19.

“This was going to be my first Olympics this year. So it’s pretty disappointing that we can’t get it over and done with and go and compete in Tokyo. But it’s understandable, he says.

“For me it probably works out quite well because another year of training might actually suit me because I'm still young and I'm still developing. Whereas some of the older guys in my event, they’re on their way out. So they might be getting slower and I'm getting faster.”

BMX champion Sarah Walker has been preparing for the past four years for the Games and is disappointed as well.

“I really don’t know how I’m feeling. I definitely feel a bit bummed that it’s not going ahead this year. Because probably in the last year I’ve ridden my bike the best I’ve ever ridden.”

However, she also understands it’s important to postpone the event, from a health perspective.

The announcement to delay the Games comes after months of deliberation amongst international officials.

The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says,“We acknowledge this has been a very difficult situation for both the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and we thank them for listening to our athletes and athletes worldwide to provide some certainty.

"We are committed to playing our role in making 'Tokyo 2020' next year a success.”

New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith says at least 1000 athletes have been preparing to qualify for and represent New Zealand at the Games. In total, 200 of those were expected to compete.

“Over the last few months we've been communicating regularly with the athletes. It’s been an uncertain time for them. Events have been cancelled. Arrangements have been changing. So we've been communicating with them about surviving in this area in this time of flux and challenge so we'll continue to do that.”

For now, Clareburt and Walker have plans in place during their isolation. Since swimming pools are closed around the country, Clareburt has an alternative way to train.

“I've got my home gym set up from High Performance Sport New Zealand and I'm just trying to keep to the same routine. So I'm going to be getting up at the same times as I usually do and train at the same time. It'll just be a different form of cardio,” Clareburt says. 

Walker says she’s most concerned about getting injured between now and the time of the 2021 Games because it is common for BMX athletes to experience injuries.