Olympic qualifications to be honoured when Tokyo Games take place, Island teams benefit

Individuals and national teams which had already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will retain their spots for the rescheduled Games in 2021.

The International Olympic Committee made that guarantee late Friday night.

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That is crucial news for the Langford-based Canadian men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams, which have qualified for Tokyo. It’s also good news for the six Elk Lake-based Rowing Canada boats which have also qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, not to mention individual Island players such as Emma Entzminger and James Kirkpatrick of the Tokyo-qualified respective women’s and men’s Canadian softball and field-hockey teams.

More than 50 Island or Island-based athletes are expected to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, now to be held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IOC said 57 percent of the qualifying berths for the Games, still to be referred to as Tokyo 2020 despite being postponed to 2021, have been filled.

Of the 43 percent still to be decided were the Canadian swimmers, who expected to be in their Olympic trials this weekend in Toronto. Those trials have been postponed, likely to next year. A promising potential Tokyo Olympic swim group from the Island is led by Danielle Hanus, who won four silver medals in the 2019 Lima Pan American Games. Also in that group out of the currently-closed Saanich Commonwealth Place pool is 2019 Lima Pan Am Games silver- and bronze-medallist Faith Knelson, 2019 FINA world aquatics championships 5K bronze-medallist Eric Hedlin and Jade Hannah, who won two gold medals and a bronze at the world junior championships. Also among the Saanich Commonwealth Place-based hopefuls for Tokyo are Mackenzie Padington, Jeremy Bagshaw, Jon McKay and Chantel Jeffrey, all of whom represented Canada in the 2019 FINA world aquatics championships in South Korea and have legitimate dreams of swimming in the Olympics next year.

Among the Olympic spots yet to be filled are the last four men’s basketball slots. Organizers said Victoria is still prepared to host a last-chance Olympic basketball qualifier next year at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. It had originally been scheduled for June in the Memorial Centre but that has been scrubbed due to the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021.

“We are committed to organize the qualifying tournament at a time when it is safe to do so,” said Clint Hamilton, chair of the local organizing steering committee.

“That is our intent, and we are optimistic that we will do so [next year].”

The IOC said the new 2021 dates for the Summer Olympics will be announced within three weeks.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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