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Tokyo Olympics postponed: 'Sport does not always go along to script, life comes first'

Abhinav Bindra, Sindhu and Popat are in unison about the postponement of the Games.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 01, 2020, 12.10 PM IST
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(L-R) Here's what PV Sindhu, ​Abhinav Bindra and Aparna Popat feel about Tokyo Olympics being postponed.
(L-R) Here's what PV Sindhu, Abhinav Bindra and Aparna Popat feel about Tokyo Olympics being postponed.
For athletes all primed for the Olympics, it’s a test to reset and peak all over again. But it’s the same for their opponents too. And champions find a way.

Dressed up and nowhere to go. That’s the fate of Olympians after the Tokyo Games were postponed due to coronavirus. Any other time, the delay would have caused frustration among athletes. But such is the risk of Covid-19, that most sportspeople have felt relief, along with some understandable disappointment, over the fate of Tokyo 2020.

It is true that the Olympics are a quadrennial event, and a delay messes up four years of planning and effort. But life and health come first, former and current athletes concur.

Also, as Abhinav Bindra, India’s greatest individual Olympian, says, an athlete has to be adaptable in the best of times, let alone during a global crisis. If it means recalibrating for the Olympics, so be it. At Beijing 2008, where Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual gold, the sightscreen of his gun was allegedly tampered with when he took a bathroom break. But Bindra held his nerve. And with the weight of a nation’s expectations on him, he pierced a target as small as a fish eye from nearly 32 feet.

“Performing at the highest level requires adaptability,” Bindra, 37, tells ETPanache in a phone conversation. “At some point, however well you prepare, there will be something that will come in the way and will require you to react to situations. Sport does not always go along to script. The athlete population is also the most resilient population I have come across. So yes, this is a challenge, but the world is facing it. Sport is secondary right now. The important thing is to take care of your health, of those around you. And when the dust settles, athletes can get back to training and preparing.”

Abhinav Bindra believes sport does not always go along to script.​
Abhinav Bindra believes sport does not always go along to script.

A year-long wait

Badminton star PV Sindhu, who won a silver medal in the Rio Games, would have felt a pang of disappointment about Tokyo. It was supposed to be her big chance to get gold. But she is only 25 and has time on her side, especially as the postponement is by just a year, for now.

“Everyone was saying, ‘You have a very good chance [of gold]’, and we worked very hard four years, waiting for this chance,” says Sindhu from her home in Hyderabad. “But life comes first. The virus is spreading fast. We need to take care of ourselves. So, I’m watching Netflix, movies, getting up late, getting some rest.”

Even if the Tokyo Games had gone ahead, the mindset of athletes would have already been compromised, feels former shuttler Aparna Popat, who played the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 Athens Games.

While shuttler PV Sindhu says she is using this time to get some rest, former badminton player Aparna Popat agrees that it would be a task for athletes to map their preparation again.
While shuttler PV Sindhu (L) says she is using this time to get some rest, former badminton player Aparna Popat (R) agrees that it would be a task for athletes to map their preparation again.

“If I was competing today, the first thing I would be concerned about is safety,” says Popat. “Once that kind of a mindset has set in, it’s anyway taken you away from the game. There’s already been a shift. The second aspect of this was the delay in the decision [of postponing the Games]. There was no announcement coming forth, and players were thinking, ‘Is it going to happen, not happen?’. So again, not ideal prep going into the event.”

Popat, unbeaten in India for a record nine years during her career, agrees that it would be a task for athletes to map their preparation again. But the same applies to their opponents, she says.

“I know that when you are training, you work towards a peak,” Popat says. “Now you have to find your peak a few months later, and you don’t even know when exactly that is. So, it’s going to be hard for everyone. It will be a level-playing field.”

Handling pressure
Wrestler Bajrang Punia would have been on the flight to Tokyo. And he says in the coming months, there would be some ebbs and flows of pressure to handle, and he’d have to guard against injury for a year. But overall, he understands the decision to postpone the Olympics.

PTI
​Bajrang ​Punia​ plans to make the most of this time.
Bajrang Punia plans to make the most of this time.

“Pressure thoda upar neeche chalta rehta hai. Chot se bachke, aur acche se tayari karni hai. Jo time mila hai uska bharpur faayda uthana hai,” Punia says.

The good thing is athletes now know for sure that the Olympics are not taking place this year. Says Bindra, “In times of crisis, people can accept bad news, but they cannot accept no news.”

From Olympics To Football & Cricket: Sports 2020 Stands Cancelled

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27 Mar, 2020
The summer of sport is in jeopardy. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the globe, organisers are cutting their losses and either cancelling or postponing marquee sporting events till the public health crisis abates.The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed.Here’s a roundup of all the major sporting events that have been upended by coronavirus.
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