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Athletes react to Tokyo 2020 postponement

Four years of training and dreaming just got another year added.

It’s been a tumultuous few days for Canadian Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls as officials wrestled with whether or not the 2020 Tokyo Games would be postponed.

Stefan Daniel wins the ITU World Paratriathlon Series race in Montreal. Photo: ITU Media | Wagner Araujo

Ever since he won the silver medal at the 2016 Paralympic triathlon event in Rio, Calgary’s Stefan Daniel has been dreaming of his shot to move one step higher on the podium. As was confirmed earlier today, he’ll likely have to wait another year for that opportunity, but the 23-year-old says he’s ready to wait. Before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had officially postponed the Games, Daniel completely supported the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee’s decision not to send a team to Tokyo if the Games did take place this summer.

“We expected this and saw it coming,” Daniel said in a phone interview yesterday. “It’s the right call. We all 100 per cent stand behind it. We have the best health authorities in the world and they’re making this call in our best interest, so it’s the right call.”

For Daniel, the COC/ CPC announcement on Sunday came as a relief: “We can properly isolate now,” he said. “We don’t have to put people in danger. We can take a big step back.”

Daniel is routinely very upbeat and already seems to be seeing an upside to the postponement:

“It’ll be exciting to get another good year of training,” he said. “I’m young and another year of training won’t be too bad.”

Photo: Mooloolaba Triathlon/ Ironman

Joanna Brown follows her dream

Fresh off a win at the non-drafting International-distance race in Mooloolaba, Australia a few weekends ago, Joanna Brown also felt the COC made the right call on Sunday night.

“The Olympics has been a 12 year dream of mine, it is a competition that I have aspired to partake in since watching Simon (Whitfield) in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing,” she said. “It has been my central focus every year, and I have used it as a focal point, as motivation to get out the door, and as inspiration to push myself through hard sessions and tired days. The life of an athlete leads to a somewhat selfish existence, where your own needs are prioritized and where many sacrifices are made for one goal. The current global situation has forced all of us to take a step back, and consider the needs of others and our community above everything. Many athletes have a desire to give back to their communities, and this is a chance to do so. By staying at home, being flexible, remaining optimistic, reaching out to each other, and putting sport on the back burner, we can make a huge difference and help our country to bounce back faster.”

Matthew Sharpe

Matthew Sharpe stays motivated

After returning from Australia last week after competing at the Mooloolaba ITU World Cup (he finished 19th), Matthew Sharpe has been in self isolation with his girlfriend, American Olympic hopeful Kirsten Kasper.

“It has been a very surreal experience since we left Australia last week,” he said. “We travelled wearing masks and were constantly sanitizing every square inch of our seats. Upon arriving in Canada we immediately were setup in my mom’s basement suite and other than training (from a significant distance!) we haven’t had much contact with the outside world. We are very fortunate our community here has stepped up and people have been delivering us our groceries.”

Sharpe wasn’t surprised with the news about the Tokyo Games.

“Based on what we have been seeing in the news, it is naive to think that in July things would be business as usual,” he said. “I was proud that Canada took the lead in acknowledging we need to put our personal ambitions on hold for the greater good of society.”

“I have to admit that during the past week my motivation has definitely taken a hit,” when asked how hard it is to stay positive and motivated right now. “And that is OK. I don’t have a specific goal race I am working towards,  so I will need to reassess what my goals are. I know that if I can reframe my goals then the motivation will follow. I recently set a personal best for my 20-minute threshold on the bike, so maybe I can work towards improving that even more. Maybe I can go try and hang onto Lionel’s wheel in a Zwift race? It’s time to get creative on that front.”

While Sharpe sees the postponement of the Games as the right move, he’s also aware that there will be challenges to maintaining an Olympic run for another year.

“Now that it is clear we will not be competing in Tokyo in 2020, we can shift our focus off of ourselves and onto our families and communities,” he said. “It is important for us all to come together as one “Team Canada” and look after each other.”

“For myself, the hardest part of preparing for Tokyo 2021 will be ensuring I have the resources to make it to that point,” he continued. “I am fortunate to be suppported by Sport Canada. However, with the lack of opportunity to earn prize money, my personal resources will be spread thin. When racing does resume again it will be important for me to train for, and target, opportunities to earn an income.”