Laurie Foster | Olympic dark cloud provides silver lining
THE INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee (IOC) said the Tokyo Games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community”.
After several days of speculation, the IOC has decided that it was time to make the only decision that would frontally address the parlous health situation into which the world has fallen, given the galloping spread of the coronavirus.
It seems reasonable to assume that the announcement came about because of the pressure from a number of First-World countries, Canada and the like, who had expressed their reluctance to send athletes with the situation being as it was when their decisions were made public.
The virus itself had the world community at the end of its tether merely trying to cope with a mystery illness which was claiming lives at a reported rate of one every 10 minutes. Happily, although it came somewhat later than it should, the decision has been made, and 2021 should bring the staging.
This is no time to argue about how late the decision came. Rather, one has got to look at next year and see what can be expected from some of the most important players – the athletes.
Understandably so, Jamaica should be focused on what will be the chances of the athletes who had hinted at being its top performers. Many-time global gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce had mentioned that 2020 could be her final Olympics. After her Doha World Championships victory, a repeat of that performance would not have been an unrealistic expectation. She certainly would have wished to exit the stage at that level.
The good thing is that, with the postponement announcement, her handlers are able to structure her programme with the assurance that there is now a target around which to aim her preparation. The same should be said for defending double sprint champion Elaine Thompson, who is battling Achilles problems. One hopes that the postponement to 2021 will mean that much more time for full recuperation. Jamaica’s hopes are torn between the two and that is quite understandable. It should make the rivalry even sweeter, as both have their camps within the nation’s framework.
Yohan Blake is another who is just shy of going into retirement. His performances over the last few years, coming after his double sprint silver at the London Olympics, have been hampered by cruel injuries. He will be up against it in trying to recapture the form that took him to London. The postponement will afford him the time he should need to sharpen his tools to raise himself to the condition which is needed to realise his dreams. It will not be easy, but the fact that he has been expressing his confidence in his new coach, Gregory Little, should be a welcome confidence booster. It might be a bit optimistic, but one can be sure that the absence of medals from his chest over so long a period should make him that much more hungry.
Defending 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod has been fighting injury over the past year. The one-year delay in staging the Olympics should be like a gift, offering much-needed time for full recovery. The Doha champion, the USA’s Grant Holloway, should be a major obstacle to McLeod’s ambitions, and the duel between the two should be well worth the wait.
Last, one can look at the fortunes of the sensational Briana Williams, who has given up competition as a junior athlete for which she remains eligible until 2021. The present situation will allow her an extra year of preparation under coach Ato Boldon. The good thing about this, is that she will be afforded the opportunity to get a world junior record, which should be quite special.
The instances mentioned are not meant to be the sum total of Jamaica’s prospects for top-level performances when the summer of 2021 comes along. Let us just view them as some of those for whom 2021 and what happens then, might see a different picture than what 2020 could have been.
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