'No surprise'

Sports

'No surprise'

Knight-Wisdom, Beckford take Olympic postponement with mix of letdown, relief

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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Like many of their compatriots and counterparts, Jamaica's diving flag bearer Yona Knight-Wisdom and gymnast Reiss Beckford took news of the Tokyo Olympic Games' postponement with disappointment and relief.

However, both British-born athletes, who are yet to punch their tickets to the Games, are keeping their eyes on the prize and urged others to do the same in light of the difficulties that might come with training for another year.

The Games' postponement came as another casualty of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which has claimed the lives of almost 17,000 people worldwide and caused the cancellation of numerous sporting events around the globe.

Though the major international multi-sport event, which was scheduled for July 24 to August 9, will now be held no later than the summer 2021, it will still be recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

For athletes like Beckford, the Games' postponement means waiting an extra year to make an Olympic debut, while others who are at the backend of their careers might consider delaying retirement a bit longer.

Still Beckford, who is seeking to join the other British-born, Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis in qualifying for the Olympics, believes the IOC made the right decision to postpone.

Beckford was scheduled to appear at the now postponed Pan American Cup which acts as an Olympic qualifier, where success would have seen him becoming the first Jamaican male gymnast and third overall to achieve qualification.

Toni-Ann Williams appeared at the 2016 Games in Rio.

“At a time like this I think it was the best decision; I don't think it was fair for the athletes to be left in limbo and to keep working not knowing what was going to happen.

“So at least now knowing that it is postponed, the stress has gone and we can now breathe a sigh of relief in terms of training, because a lot, if not most countries are in lockdown and training is extremely difficult [as many athletes] are only being able to train at home; is difficult with the sport that we do,” Beckford told the Jamaica Observer from his United Kingdom base.

The 28-year-old, who was a part of a silver medal-winning English team at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, is also cognisant that training regimes will have to be tweaked and peak performances put on hold.

According to Beckford, the postponement also means more than just another year of physical training, it also represents another year of maintaining motivation, ensuring psychological preparation and incredible focus.

“I think some really tough decisions are going to be made and I know that for a lot of athletes this was going to be their last shot at trying to go to an Olympic Games, and having to wait a another year, is a big commitment in terms of training and lifestyle. So I know there is going to be a lot of tough decisions for athletes, but at the end of the day, I think it was the best decision to postpone it,” Beckford reasoned.

He continued: “The Olympics represents a huge part of an athlete's career, so I think if you have the opportunity and you are able to try to stick around for that extra year, I think it would be a good idea.

“But like I said, it is unfortunate, it is one of those things that we can't control and so we just have to try and look to the positive and try and stay safe and motivated to keep going.”

Meanwhile, Knight-Wisdom is one of those athletes who were just about hitting top stride in preparation for a July 24 start to the Olympics.

But the 24-year-old is maintaining a positive mindset about making his second Olympic appearance for Jamaica, having featured at the 2016 Games in Rio.

Knight-Wisdom is also based in the United Kingdom, which has over 8,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 422 deaths.

“The postponement doesn't come as a huge surprise to me, because so many leagues and tournaments around the world were postponed or cancelled and training facilities for so many athletes, including myself, being closed down, forcing us to work out and stay fit at home, it was inevitable that the Olympics would follow suit.

“It's a shame that the Olympics won't be on this summer because I had a great start to the season and felt like I was on a good path towards success, but I now have a year to get better and ready for Tokyo 2021,” the Pan American Games 1-metre springboard silver medalist shared.

“The next moves for me are pretty simple; I just have to wait until we find out what happens next with the competition calendar. That will dictate how I need to proceed over the next few weeks and months. Until then, I just need to continue as close to normal as possible, stay as healthy as I can and try to stay sane whilst my movements are limited,” Knight-Wisdom added.


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