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Tokyo 2020 postponed - And how do athletes like us postpone their dreams?

Since this week it’s official: The Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed due to the ongoing Corona pandemic - the new dates for 2021 are to be determined. What does it mean for the athletes who train and work months and even years for this competition already? And how does one feel when the dream of Olympics is rescheduled? A very personal article by Mareike Miller.

Tokyo 2020 should become my third Paralympic Games. Since I had to accept a disappointing defeat in the Rio 2016 gold medal game, I dream about playing wheelchair basketball on the world’s biggest stages again. The atmosphere when about 16.000 spectators literally push us to extraordinary peak performances is simply beyond words and unheard-of. 

I was lucky enough to experience this emotion and the joy of winning a medal during these moments twice already. The four-year phase between Paralympic Games is then even more so filled with the wonderful memories of standing, sitting or in basketball making buckets there. The entire four years, every month, every week and every day athletes remember those moments and motivate themselves to go to another training, get another rep in during weight training or add an extra sprint.

Over the past days and weeks, we received many news and expert feedback regarding the corona crisis with discussions about physical or social distancing as well as curfews. I’m sure everyone has a lot on their mind during these times. Especially being asked or forced to do things different or not at all for reasons that are difficult to grasp or see can lead to doubts. How could a hairdresser just be forbidden to cut hair? Or why should a retailer close his shop and loose his basis of existence? For athletes who usually visit athletic facilities daily for training and maybe even have sports as their full-time job it’s just as unthinkable to suddenly stop. Of course it is difficult to accept to be asked to do so and it’s challenging everyone!

Mareike Miller and the team after being honoured with the silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics, Photo: MSSP, Michael Schwartz

During this time, athletes were also interviewed and asked: „Do you want the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be postponed?“ And how would anyone answer: „Yes, of course. I want to have to work for my goal longer and extend my training periods by many months.“? Of course we all gave everything to be at these games and perform well. We planned our whole life to fit this schedule including private life and careers or education just to give Tokyo 2020 our full focus. And it’s not easy to say we should change everything again. It feels like a terrible setback and not everything is easy to adjust to allow all of us to compete in Tokyo in 2021. Some athletes may even have to question themselves if they are able and willing to push the end of their athletic career back for a year. 

And yet, of all people why should athletes be dealing with this crisis differently than is asked from the entire humanity? Why aren’t we part of this society but rather are given the chance to request exceptions? Why should our training and dream of participating at The Games be worth more and survive this crisis differently then the dream of the self-employed store owner next-door who has just started his business and is now shaking, waiting for federal help to allow him to fulfill his store dreams at a later time? Aren’t we as athletes supposed to be role models of our society and thus responsible for hope, optimism and striving to fulfill our dreams when moved past this crisis together? Shouldn’t we show the world especially now: Yes, we give up on something because all of us matter. But we are strong enough to overcome even this. We believe in the future and find ways to follow the new advice and rules to successfully complete all challenges. We are able to manage staying fit without using exceptions and then, soon, when everything is sage, we will conquer the world and our good lives again.

No one wished for the Olympic and Paralympic Games not to take place in the summer of 2020. But now is not the right time to hold on to schedules. It is the time to get through a tough time jointly and it’s time to stay calm and show flexibility. It is the right time to enjoy our digitalization and technology. I look forward to one extra video call to my little niece or one additional conversation with grandma while taking another drive less to the gym. All of these little things will allow us to have a good, hopefully healthy time, during this crisis and create the positive energy we need to resolve our personal situations and then attack another thorough preparation for The Games. And I believe despite the losses now, we will experience the most amazing Games ever. Games that are full of joy, laughter, hope and gratefulness that we are able to celebrate the amazing athletic performances again. 


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