The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic has some of Taiwan’s elite athletes hitting the reset button, while others are wondering when they will get another chance to qualify for the rescheduled Games.
To Taiwan’s top gymnast, Lee Chih-kai (李智凱), the delay means basically returning to square one.
“It was just 100-plus days away. Now, it’s more than 400 days,” said Lee at the end of March following 14 days in self-isolation after returning to Taiwan from qualifying events overseas. “All I can do is look on the bright side. At least I’m still young, and with the Olympics postponed for a year, I have the opportunity to continue to improve and strengthen and perfect new moves.”
Taiwanese gymnasts had their season cut off in mid-March in Azerbaijan when the finals of the International Gymnastics Federation’s Baku World Cup were canceled after two days of qualifying because of the local government’s ban on mass gatherings.
At least none of the gymnasts who went to the US for an event and then to Baku tested positive for COVID-19, Lee said.
However, not having an Olympics in July to prepare for has forced him to reset his focus amid the uncertain future for all sports competitions, he said.
Lee, a pommel horse specialist, has reported to the National Sports Training Center in Kaohsiung and is planning a new training regimen with his coach to qualify for the men’s gymnastics all-around event.
Lee secured an Olympic berth in the men’s team event with his teammates from their results at the Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, in October last year, and was almost guaranteed a spot in the pommel horse event, especially after winning silver in the discipline in Stuttgart.
However, qualifying for the all-around competition would make the delay more palatable to Lee, who competed in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 in the pommel horse, but did not reach the final eight.
Archery veteran Tan Ya-ting (譚雅婷), a bronze medalist in the women’s team event at the 2016 Summer Olympics, said she was surprised by Tokyo’s decision to postpone the Games, but did not think it was necessarily a bad thing.
Tan acknowledged that the pandemic had forced the suspension of international competitions and her training routine, but said: “Postponing the Olympics for a year will at least give me more time to prepare and more time to recover from injuries.”
A teammate of Tan and Lee at the 2016 Rio Games, javelin thrower Huang Shih-feng (黃士峰), who had not yet qualified for the Tokyo Games, said that “the delay means more time to prepare,” but he hoped the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) would soon announce how athletes can qualify.
The delay allows him to train at a more moderate pace, he said.
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