Mon | Jul 13, 2020

Dream delayed - Would-be first-time Olympians react to news of Tokyo 2020 postponement

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2020 | 12:20 AMDaniel Wheeler/Gleaner Writer

For several Jamaican athletes, news of the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games due to the coronavirus pandemic has delayed a lifelong dream of competing on the biggest sporting platform on the planet.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), along with the local organising committee, confirmed the decision yesterday to push back the Games to 2021 and while there are senior Jamaican athletes, who will be facing retirement questions in light of the announcement, for those hoping to compete at the Games for the first time in their lives, the news will mean additional anxiety and tension.

Sprint hurdles standout Danielle Williams has enjoyed an impressive international senior career, but, despite her success, she is yet to add the Olympic Games to her resume. She must be cursing her luck.

Williams, the 2015 world champion in the 100m hurdles, missed the plane to the Rio Olympic Games a year later, after falling while competing in the final at the National Senior Championships.

The national record holder, who won bronze at last year’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar, was expecting to push for a medal in Tokyo this summer, in what would have been her first appearance at the Games.

However, while admitting disappointment with the setback, Williams is taking things in stride, as she now recalibrates for the 2021 campaign.

“This would have been my first Olympic Games after missing out on the 2016 team, so yes I am disappointed, but I am not surprised based on all that has been happening. We just have to keep in shape as best as possible and wait it out,” said Williams.

“Athletes will now have one more year to prepare, especially those who were nursing injuries, so this could buy them more time to get in better shape,” added Williams.

Hoping to fly the flag for Jamaican gymnastics this year, was Danusia Francis, who qualified for the Games last October at the World Artistic Championships in Stuttgart, Germany and is herself working her way back from a thumb injury.

Although she says that the postponement will require a change in her approach, Francis is determined to ensure that she makes it to Tokyo next summer in the best condition.

“After fighting so long to qualify, I will change my plans to fit the new date,” Francis told The Gleaner.

Her road to qualification came off the back of a 2019 season that saw her become the first Jamaican to compete in a final at last year’s Pan American Games in Peru. It also came after having her dream denied twice, only making the Great Britain reserve team in 2012 and not being chosen to compete at the qualifying event for the Rio Olympics four years ago.

Meanwhile, Rushell Clayton, a potential débutante for athletics, is also taking a measured outlook to the development.

Clayton finished third in a new personal best of 53.74 seconds at the World Championships last year and was looking to build on her achievements in Tokyo this year.

“It’s sad but it’s understandable at the same time because safety comes first in everything,” Clayton said. “We want to go to n Olympic Games where everyone is healthy, where the entire surrounding is healthy.”

Young track star Briana Williams was also eyeing a spot on Jamaica’s team to the Olympics this year, where she was tipped to make her senior team debut, after missing that opportunity last year.

Williams who enjoyed a stellar junior career, which saw her becoming a triple Carifta champion last year and a double World Under-20 champion in the 100m and 200m in 2018.

The 18-year-old, however, sees the postponement as a blessing in disguise, and believes it will allow her to continue her progress.

“It’s sad because I was ready for this year because of the times I was running in training but this gives me a chance to grow and get stronger,” Williams said.

Organisers of the Games have stated that the Tokyo Olympics will be held no later than Summer 2021. The postponement will effect other global events scheduled for next year including the Swimming World Championships and the World Athletics Championships.