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Road To Olympics Lengthened But Athletes Hopeful

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Hopefuls

Over 17 days, from 24 July to 9 August 2020, more than 11,000 athletes would have gathered in Tokyo, Japan, for the 32nd Olympic Games, pushing their bodies and minds to the limit to become the next Olympic champion in their respective events. However, one common enemy – COVID-19 – thwarted the plans of these athletes worldwide. For the physical well-being of athletes, sport competitions were postponed, some were even cancelled; and the Olympics was not spared. After several meetings in March 2020, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Organizing Committee announced the postponement of the world’s largest sport event till the summer of 2021.

While many athletes have been affected as sport and training restrictions were imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 (short for Coronavirus Disease) the postponement of the Tokyo Games has brought some hope to athletes vying for a spot to compete at the quadrennial Games. The delay of the Games means an extension of the qualification window, allowing athletes more attempts to qualify, as well as time to prepare for the competition. And despite the bleak sport scene globally, many around the world commemorated Olympic Day on 23 June 2020 and celebrated good health by encouraging others to keep active.

Sailing duo Cecilia Low Rui Qi and Kimberly Lim were two such athletes from the Republic who were looking forward to making their debut at Tokyo 2020. Cecilia, a Singapore Sports School alumna, and partner Kimberly had won a berth for Singapore in the 49erFX Class after they finished 15th at the Hyundai 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships on 8 December 2019.

“Preparation is going well. We have been doing home-based training during the circuit breaker, using dumbbells and kettlebells which we managed to borrow. We’re fortunate to have Singapore Sport Institute’s sport physiologist Joel Pang and strength and conditioning coach Ranald Joseph who helped us plan our programmes so that we maintained our fitness. As soon as we got the green light to resume sailing, we got back to our full schedule of sea and gym training,” said Cecilia, the Jakarta-Palembang 2018 Asian Games champion in the same boat class.

“I'm quite pleased with the postponement of the Olympics as it gives the virus a chance to clear and the situation to stabilise. Although the Games being pushed back by a year has affected our plans to return to school, it has also given us more time to prepare and improve before the Olympics to give us a better chance at performing.”

Several other athletes who are on track to competing at Tokyo 2020 are shuttlers Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min. A maximum of 38 players will be allowed to compete in the Men’s and Women’s Singles each. Both alumni, who are placed 16th and 17th respectively on the qualification list, have a good chance of making the Olympics cut should they maintain their strong competitive form in the next few months.

With the revised dates of 23 July to 8 August 2021 brings renewed hope to their Olympic campaign for fencer Amita Marie Nicolette Berthier, and shooters Adele Tan Qian Xiu, Ho Xiu Yi and Martina Lindsay P Veloso. The additional year presents more opportunities to the young athletes as they work hard to earn their place and hone their skill to compete against the world’s best athletes.

“My previous Road to Olympics plan was disrupted, but this gives me more time to improve myself physically and mentally, to be better able to match the world top ranking players,” said Kean Yew.
“With the Olympic Games postponed, I have more time to work on my mental strength and how I overcome pressure during crucial moments in a competition. This will help me during the Olympic Games trials and also in important competitions,” said shooter Ho Xiu Yi who is in her final year of the Extended IBDP.