SINGAPORE: Sailors Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low are used to facing uncertainties, whether it be the wind, the waves or the weather. And with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed to a yet to be disclosed date, they could possibly face another.
But the duo, who had qualified to compete in the 49erFX event, think the postponement of the quadrennial Games was the right call.
“We believe it is the fairest and safest decision. The current situation amidst the global pandemic is way greater than us and sports. It is time to focus on the safety and health of the people,” they said.
Earlier on Tuesday (Mar 24), a joint-statement issued by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 organising committee on Tuesday said that the Games "must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021".
Singapore already has had a number of athletes qualify for the Games, including sailors Lim and Low, swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, as well as gymnast Tan Sze En. Schooling was originally due to defend his 100m Butterfly gold in Tokyo.
Singapore’s top men’s badminton player Loh Kean Yew admitted that it was disappointing that the Olympics were postponed, but called it a “necessary measure”. Loh is ranked 36th in the world and stood a good chance of qualification.
“While it is disappointing that the Olympics got postponed because I've been training very hard in preparation for it, but the safety of everyone involved is the most important and I understand that this is a necessary measure,” he said.
But the road ahead will not be easy, especially for athletes who hold full-time jobs such as Joan Poh.
With the timeline of Olympic qualification meets and the exact date of the Games still up in the air, Ms Poh has to make a decision over whether to continue pursuing her Olympic dream, or to return to work.
“To me, qualification is as important as the Olympics, if not more important,” said Ms Poh, who is a nurse. “Most people see it as a postponement but there’s a lot more intricacies involved.”
For Ms Poh, who competes in rowing, it is a case of being stuck at the crossroads.
“It’s not the most logical thing for me to walk away from this campaign altogether now after I have put in four years, but it is also eating at me a lot that being frontline trained, I could be an extra pair of hands that can help in the current virus-fighting situation,” she said.
“I’ve invested so much into trying to pursue and Olympic dream and I feel torn between the two … If I do just go back to work, whatever I’ve gone through, whatever I’ve put my friends and family through will be for nothing. It’s not as straightforward.”
“We share a similar sentiment with respect to all the plans changing so drastically and the amount of uncertainty that lies ahead,” said Lim and Low, who qualified for the Games in December. “However, like sailing, we are always faced with uncontrollable factors, the one who manages them best will succeed.
“Our goal is to best perform at the Olympic Games and that has not changed. With the cards we have been dealt, we will adapt with an open mind to best restructure our plan with the new timeline in place.”
Fencer Amita Berthier is one of the athletes in the process of trying to qualify for the Olympics and has taken the announcement in her stride.
“Of course I was a bit disappointed as the qualifiers were really close and I had been working real hard for it. I took the year off from school to try and qualify for the Olympics,” said Berthier, who was originally due to compete in a zonal qualifier in Seoul, South Korea early next month. Winning the event would have meant Olympic qualification.
“But health is our number one priority and all the athletes should be in the best condition to be able to compete.”
The 19-year-old added that she empathised with those who had already qualified.
"I definitely feel for them, I hope they are not too gutted by this and they can keep their head up and keep going, keep working hard," she said. "I'm sure they will be driven enough to work hard and achieve whatever they want to achieve at the Olympics."
“With this extra time, we are going to take it as an opportunity to further better ourselves for the Games,” sailors Lim and Low.
“(The) first step is to sit down and revise plans with the new time frame and current constraints. It is going to be a historic Olympic Games, and we will go at it with all we got.”