Gymnast Danusia Francis takes Olympic Games postponement in stride


Gymnast Danusia Francis takes Olympic Games postponement in stride

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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After weeks of hoping she would regain fitness in time for the Tokyo Olympics Jamaica's British-born gymnast Danusia Francis yesterday welcomed news of the Games' postponement due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The fate of the major international multi-sport event was always hanging in the balance, as numerous athletes and sporting associations voiced concerns and even threatened withdrawal if the Games were hosted amidst the pandemic, which has plunged the sporting world into turmoil.

As such, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organisers yesterday did the inevitable of postponing the 2020 Games until 2021.

The IOC's release stated that the Games, which were scheduled for July 24 to August 9, will now be held “not later than summer 2021”, but will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Francis, 25, who is Jamaica's second gymnast to qualify for the Olympics after Toni-Ann Williams' appearance at the 2016 Games in Rio, believes the IOC made the right decision to postpone and not cancel.

“Obviously it's hard for me at my age to think I may have to train for an entire extra year, but I think this is the best decision. We cannot put the lives of athletes, coaches, spectators and others at risk and I am happy that it is not cancelled.

“I have been keeping my hopes up for the Olympics to be postponed rather than cancelled because I think it is such a huge event that it would be a massive shame to completely cancel it. So again, I welcome the decision to postpone,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer from her United Kingdom base.

A major positive to come from the postponement, for Francis and many athletes around the globe, is the added time they are now allowed to get back into full preparations when the COVID-19 pandemic ceases.

The diminutive Francis had her preparations hampered in November when she suffered a thumb injury and her bid to make a quick return later resulted in a back injury, which left her in a wait-and-see frame of mind.

However, her road to full recovery has been with limited sessions due to the cancellation of several competitions, as the United Kingdom, where Francis lives, has approximately 8,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 422 deaths.

“It (recovery) has been going well; I have got all my skills back with minimum pain now. However, I will use this time to continue to strengthen these injuries and reduce the pain completely.

“I have been training up until Saturday, but our gym is now closed. It was a little hard to stay motivated with all my meets being cancelled. But the morale at my gym stayed high and after one or two days, I was able to refocus on the execution of my skills rather than getting my routines and endurance up for the cancelled competitions,” Francis noted.

That said, Francis believes it was practical for her to still prepare and possibly peak for the July 24 start of the Olympics if the Games were not postponed and normality were to return in a month or two.

“Personally, I think if I was to return to training at the beginning or middle of May, I would still be able to compete at my best on July 24th, as long as I worked hard to stay in good shape and maintain a high level of fitness during lockdown, which I plan on doing,” she declared.

Going forward, Francis, who was a reserve athlete for Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, pointed out that she will be taking each day in stride, as she looks ahead to her big Olympic debut.

Prior to achieving the qualifying feat last year, Francis became the first Jamaican gymnast to compete in a gymnastics final at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru.

“This is a confusing and unusual time that nobody was really prepared for; therefore I am taking each day as it comes and taking the advice of the Government and experts, as well as staying updated with the news. I still expect to represent Jamaica at the Olympics, the only difference is that it just won't be in July,” she ended.

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