Life comes first! Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, Bajrang Punia hail Tokyo Olympics being postponed

Updated: Mar 25, 2020, 08:38 IST | PTI | New Delhi

India's star athletes like boxer MC Mary Kom, shuttler Saina Nehwal and wrestler Bajrang Punia hail IOC's decision to postpone Tokyo Games to next year in wake of Corona crisis

Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal
Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal

Life comes first, sport can wait. This was the collective view of India's top Olympic-bound athletes, including stalwarts such as MC Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal, as they lauded the Tokyo Games' postponement amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has pushed the world into chaos. The quadrennial showpiece, scheduled from July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo, was postponed to no later than summer of 2021 after a telephonic conversation between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday. "The situation right now is not good. Life always comes first, everything else can wait. Players' safety is paramount. Everyone who took this decision factored this in. I think it's good for everyone," Mary kom told PTI.

"Now I get more time to prepare, our training plans can be extended. And it's not just for me, it is true for everyone around the world," she added. Saina, also a bronze-winner at the 2012 Games, held a similar view. "Happy that it's postponed even though some of us haven't qualified. We are eager to know what the qualification [process] would be like going ahead," she said. "As an athlete who's played Olympics before I would say it's good as everyone can chill now and not worry about preparations amid a lockdown. We all have to be safe first and then we can think about preparations," she added, referring to the lockdown in India to contain the pandemic.

Star wrestler Bajrang Punia, who is eyeing an Olympic medal on debut, said training had been thrown haywire by the pandemic and the postponement is welcome.

Health is paramount: Punia

"It's a good decision because everyone is disturbed. Athletes' health is paramount. No one is training properly. It's not just about India, it's also about the entire world. We first have to save people from this epidemic," Punia told PTI. Former world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu also felt that the decision is good for athletes. "Whatever happens, happens for a good reason. Now we have more time to prepare. It's good for my performance. I will continue training," she said.

Shooter Rahi Sarnobat, who qualified in the 25m air pistol event, said she is feeling relieved. "...since training had stopped, we would have needed another three-four months time to prepare. So, we wanted postponement. Now we can refresh ourselves and restart the competitions [training]," she said.

Hockey coach Reid rues delay

Men's hockey coach Graham Reid said the team is gutted but understands the gravity of the health crisis. "It is very disappointing that the Olympics will not go ahead in 2020, but given the unprecedented circumstances facing the world at present it is totally understandable and expected," Reid said. The view was shared by his counterpart with the Indian women's team, Sjoerd Marijne. "I just had a meeting with the team and broke this news to the group. Though it is disappointing, the girls told me, 'It's ok, Coach. We will continue to work the way we are and this probably gives us more time to prepare for the Olympic Games."

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