Island athletes pumped for 2021 Tokyo Olympics

It will be a year later and, hopefully, a year safer.

Island athletes reacted Monday to the announcement of the new dates for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which will take place July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tokyo Paralympics will follow from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5, 2021.

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“A postponement [announced last week] has never happened before in the Olympics and I was just processing it. There is more certainty now with a set date to work toward,” said world champion rower Caileigh Filmer of Victoria.

“I have confidence in our new plan and feel well supported,” added the Olympic medal prospect out of Mount Douglas Secondary and the University of Victoria.

Rugby sevens player Pat Kay of Duncan, a member of the Tokyo-qualified and Langford-based Canadian men’s team, was planning on reassessing his career after this summer post-Olympics.

“Now that our new direction and trajectory is known, I will instead do that reassessment after the Olympics next summer. The only change is that there is a year’s difference,” said the 26-year-old graduate of Cowichan Secondary.

The new dates mirror almost identically, with only one day’s difference, this year’s originally scheduled Olympic dates of July 24 to Aug. 9. There had been some speculation about spring dates but the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers nixed that idea.

“I was not opposed to a spring time frame for the Tokyo Games, because it would be sooner, but this allows us to have a proper World Series [rugby sevens] season leading into an Olympics that will really bring the world together next summer in a unique celebration,” said Kay.

Olympic-hopeful triathlete Matt Sharpe of Victoria agreed.

“It feels a lot more real now than it did last week,” said the Campbell River-raised graduate of Claremont Secondary.

“This is a realistic new date and I am excited to have it as a target.”

Thinking ahead about a return to normalcy is as important mentally and emotionally as being physically careful in the present.

“Now is the time to be safe and flatten the curve,” said Sharpe.

“Next summer will be a great way to come together and celebrate humanity and the shared adversity we will have gone through. I think there will be tremendous support for Japan and a huge pent-up demand for these Games to be a success.”

Island athletes, Olympian or otherwise, are finding ways to keep fit until normal team or group training can resume.

Filmer said she has access to a spin bike, ERG rowing machine and weights at home and also goes road cycling.

“We have 480 days, so it’s back to building up volume,” she said.

Kay said he is “keeping it fun and different with creative runs across beaches and trails.”

Sharpe responded: “Treadmill, stationary bike and Netflix.”

The third aspect of triathlon is being addressed with virtual chat sessions with his swim coaches. Sharpe is keeping his training close to home at the moment.

“The roads of Victoria will still be there when we get back [to regular training].”

More than 60 Island or Island-based athletes are expected to compete in the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, still to be referred to as Tokyo 2020, despite being rescheduled to 2021.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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