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‘What’s another year?’ British stars relieved at Olympic delay

Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith poses with her gold medal after winning the 200m at the 2019 world championships © AFP/File / MUSTAFA ABUMUNES

LONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 24 – British Olympic gold medal hopefuls Katerina Johnson-Thompson, Adam Peaty and Dina Asher-Smith expressed their relief after Tokyo 2020 was delayed until next year on Tuesday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All three world champions had expressed their frustration at the delay of a decision on the Games, while countries across the globe imposed stringent restrictions on movement and travel to control the spread of the virus.

“A lot of athletes can breathe,” Olympic 100m breast stroke champion Peaty told BBC Sport. “We felt under pressure to train and compete.

“The decision from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) lifts that release that we don’t have to be in shape over summer and we don’t have to put unnecessary risk on others.”

Johnson-Thompson is hoping to add to her world championship gold in the heptathlon last year with Olympic gold after missing out on the podium at Rio 2016.

“Waited 8 years for this, what’s another 1 in the grand scheme of things?” Johnson-Thompson posted on Twitter.

“As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news about the olympics being postponed until 2021, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone! Hope everyone keeps safe and stay indoors.”

Asher-Smith, Britain’s world 200m champion, posted on Instagram: “#Tokyo2021, Same fire, new dates. Stay at home and stay safe everyone.”

Double Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee also welcomed the certainty of knowing the outcome after the IOC said as recently as Sunday a decision could take up to four weeks.

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“Evidently a very tough decision for the IOC and other stakeholders to make but in my opinion the right one,” said Brownlee. “Both, for the message it sends to people around the world battling with the virus and to give clarity to athletes attempting to prepare.”

Retired British track cyclist Callum Skinner, who fronts competitor-led movement Global Athlete, said the right decision had been made.

“Tokyo 2021 presents an amazing opportunity to host a full Games celebrating the world (hopefully) entering the “post-pandemic” phase,” he tweeted.

Skinner, who won gold and silver medals at the 2016 Olympics and is a member of the British Olympic Association’s (BOA) athletes’ commission questioned the IOC’s approach.

“Questions have to be asked of Thomas Bach’s “full steam ahead” policy. This saga has endangered athletes, public health and damaged the Olympic movement. What’s more he wanted this limbo to continue for 4 weeks”

British Rowing welcomed the “certainty” over the Games.

“We are now able to start planning how we best support our athletes, coaches and all our programme staff throughout this time, both within British Rowing and as a wider group of Olympic and Paralympic sports in the UK,” the organisation tweeted.

British Paralympic discus thrower Dan Greaves tweeted: “Absolutely the right decision to postpone both the Olympics & @Paralympics by a year. Health comes first & with that, athletes can now take care of theres to make sure they are able to make the hard work count!!”

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