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The fate of the sporting world has been turned topsy-turvy with events being suspended left and right, leaving athletes to wait and wonder whether their Tokyo Olympic dreams will continue as planned or be postponed as well.
Various sporting organisations including USA Track and Field team, UK’ Athletics and national Olympic committees such as Brazil’s, have urged for the Olympics postponement to help control the spread of the coronavirus. Russia’s Boxing Federation added that it should be postponed by a year because the virus has disrupted athletes’ preparations and could jeopardise their health.
It seems organisers are starting to heed their advice. As of March 22 (Sunday), Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), wrote a letter to Olympic athletes in which he said canceling the Summer Games altogether is not an option and vowed that a final decision on postponement would be made within the next four weeks.
The Summer Olympics were scheduled to run from July 24 to August 9.
On March 23 (Monday), Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary committee that postponing the Tokyo Games may become a consideration if the event cannot be staged in a “complete manner”.
While some athletes and national Olympic committees have already expressed their unwillingness to participate in July, such as German former world champion fencer Max Hartung who heads the German Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission, other competitiors are continuing their preparations.
Athletes such as Bahrain Endurance 13’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Lauren Parker will continue their training with the aim of achieving their golden dreams.
Blummenfelt is known to train up to eight hours daily and races just as hard. He broke the Ironman 70.3 world record by five minutes in 2018 at the Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championships. He then bested it by another three minutes the following year.
The Norwegian is one of the youngest on the Bahrain Endurance 13 roster and is expected to make headlines at the Olympics.
He said: “My goal is to win the Olympics in Tokyo! I’m already qualified so I’m preparing as well as I can these days to be best prepared for July 27.
“However, I think it’s very important these days as an athlete to note that global health and safety is more important than ‘just’ sport. It’s important that we all respect the rules and guidelines we have been given, so we can defeat this virus together and come stronger out of it. I try to keep and positive mindset, and do all the training I can do as well as I can. I do a lot of riding indoors on my turbo and since all swimming pools are closed, I try to compensate with dryland swimming with elastic bands.”
Parker, the first paratriathlete to wear Bahrain Endurance 13’s acclaimed team’s jersey, is also training for Tokyo Paralympics. She said: “I am so excited about competing at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and I’m honoured that I can represent my country as well as the number one team, Bahrain Endurance 13.
“I grew up having the dream of one day competing at the Olympic Games. I worked so hard and since my accident, that goal once again arose. I now have the goal of becoming Paralympic Champion and winning that Gold medal. That is where my focus is and I believe that I will achieve it! I feel excited about being on the start line at the Paralympics with the best paratriathletes in the world.
“I am training for Tokyo Paralympics which is to be held at the end of August this year. My focus hasn’t changed with everything going on around the world. I’m training as though the Paralympics are still going ahead.”
Parker has gone from elite triathlete to elite paratriathlete, approaching training and competition with the same fire she has always had as a former junior swimmer who turned professional after placing second in the 25-29 age group at the 2015 Ironman World Championship.
Three years ago a freak cycling accident broke her spine – but not her spirit. A year later, she took bronze for Australia at the Commonwealth Games paratriathlon. She also won bronze at the world final on the Gold Coast six weeks after undergoing spinal surgery.
She dominated the Paratriathlon World Cup in the last two years. Parker won the Devonport Paratriathlon World Cup at the beginning of March, backing up her win at the Paratriathlon Oceania Championships in Newcastle this past January.
She was looking forward to competing in Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Paratriathlon World Cup on March 22 in Florida, however, her race got cancelled and the whole of Florida shut down.
“I had to train in my hotel car park until I got a flight home to Australia. Upon arriving home, I am on strict 14 day isolation so I’m not able to leave my house. I will be training hard indoors though and staying positive. Although I won’t be able to swim, the pools are closed anyway; I am not focussing on that. I’m letting this be an opportunity to rest and focus on the bike and run.”
She is training on her indoor rollers and bike trainer in her home garage and she is able to do gym workouts at home incorporating swim specific exercises.
“I would advise other athletes to stay calm and positive in this time and keep focussing on your next event.” She added.
“Set a goal if you don’t have one and train as though the next competition is on. Put things in perspective, if your race is cancelled, overcome that because there are people dealing with worse situations in the world. Find a way to keep training and active. There’s always a way.”
World and paratriathlon rankings as well as Olympic and Paralympic qualification rankings have been frozen alongside the suspension of races. The Bahrain Endurance 13 hope to see the world healthy again soon and these athletes back on the starting line.