On the 24th July 2020, we would have all come together to celebrate the official opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In an unprecedented turn of events, the rise of a global pandemic swept through every nation across the globe, claiming thousands of lives each day. As sporting events world-wide were cancelled, it was officially announced through a joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, that the Olympic and Paralympic Games would be postponed until 2021.
The decision made to postpone the much awaited and anticipated event followed weeks of increasing pressure from fans, organisations and various countries, collectively expressing their opinions on athletes competing in scheduled games. This decision would not have been one made lightly and consequently, will mean months of hard work and preparation to ensure the postponed games can be held in the same spectacular fashion we’ve always known them to. For the athletes, who have worked tirelessly, investing blood, sweat and tears in both mentally and physically preparing for the Olympic experience - this becomes a time of turbulent emotion and uncertainty.
The athletes we were expecting to compete this year, will now be in the best shape they’ve ever been in. Mentally toughened for the challenges of the Olympic games, they will have also dedicated months, if not longer, to conditioning their bodies for exceptional endurance.
Now, they accept and process the news, hearts laden with sadness and disappointment. At best, for many of them, the dream seems still so far away and for the select few, it may even be over for good. These, who have worked so passionately for the reward of qualifying for the Olympic Games, will now need to adapt to the historic and life-changing situation they find themselves in.
They must move forward, in the knowledge that anything could happen in that one year, from personal circumstances right through to potential injury. Those at the absolute prime of their sporting career, such as reigning 200m World Champion sprinter, Dina Asher-Smith, who has so far, been one of Britain’s best prospects for gold in Japan this year; may feel the pressure of not being as feared by other contenders in twelve months’ time. Alternatively, for some, this postponement could prove fruitful as they utilise another year to becoming better, stronger and much more prepared; a time where enhanced efforts can also be made with public relations and additional fan base building.
We must remember that athletes are real people, too, with dreams and ambitions and aspirations outside of sport. There may be female athletes amongst the Tokyo 2020 line up, who have carefully considered taking a step back from the limelight following the games, eager to start the journey of motherhood. In amongst those who qualified for this years’ event, may be athletes reaching their retirement stage. Those in such situation will now be faced with the decision of training and working for an additional year or opting to close the door on what would have been their very last Olympic performance. These are uncertain times, even for those who are determined to attend the postponed games; for a year in the life of an athlete is a remarkably long time and there’s no knowing of the challenges that may present.
Adaptability is a prerequisite for any successful athlete, and now more than ever, it’s imperative for athletes to utilise the strategies they’ve successfully developed over the years. Their unique ability to accept change and adapt to new conditions has never been so paramount and for each of them, it is a crucial time for further enhancing their approach to adaptability, in order to triumphantly conquer this demanding and unprecedented situation.
Now that the initial shock of the postponement has passed, many have chosen the path of continuing their athletic journey to the Olympics, committing themselves into another year of strict work out regimes and competitive training. Others may still be deciding what to do next and what this latest announcement means for their sporting careers.
Performance Psychologist, Ben, says that “A common trait that all athletes have, is resilience. Essentially, by entering into elite sports, athletes know they are placing themselves in the position of needing to regularly adapt to change. There are so many ups and downs throughout a career in sports and so many possible circumstances and situations that are beyond an athlete’s control. It is inevitable that athletes will face many challenges in which they’ll have no choice but to adapt to the situation they’re presented with. These are unprecedented times, and for several reasons, there will be difficult decisions to be made by many athletes right now.”
“Athletes cannot change the current circumstance and the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 games,” he added, “However, although quite challenging, Athlete’s do have complete control and responsibility in how they respond to the current situation, something which they have been doing their entire careers”
The near future remains uncertain, not only for athletes, but for the entire world, as we await the passing of Covid-19 pandemic. Though, one thing we can be certain of is that when the Tokyo 2020 games officially start next year, it will be a monumental celebration, which will be remembered for many years to come.