The be-all and end-all for any athlete is undoubtedly the chance to compete at one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Summer Olympics.
Numerous Maltese athletes were preparing for just that but with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, the decision was made yesterday to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and needless to say, athletes have been left heartbroken.
“It was definitely upsetting as I put in countless hours of training and immense sacrifice to compete in this year’s Olympic Games. Having to give that up and not being able to train was heartbreaking,” Olympic-hopeful swimmer Amy Micallef told Lovin Malta.
Though the news comes as a tough blow, athletes wouldn’t be athletes if they couldn’t take a hit or two and Malta’s sporting community has taken the news with a mature and positive attitude.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted people’s lives and that of each international athlete’s preparation for the Games,” swimmer Amy Micallef told Lovin Malta.
“It’s quite sad for everyone to see this happening especially for us athletes, but it’s evident that the whole world is suffering.”
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As heartbreaking as it may be, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games did not come as a surprise given the current state of the world.
“I believe that the International Olympic Committee made the right decision to postpone the Olympics. They are trying to protect the health of the athletes and everyone involved in such a massive event,” Amy said.
“Everyone’s health is the number one priority so we need to take the necessary measures to safeguard each other and follow the authority’s instructions.”
“We all know the Olympic Games are held every four years but it wouldn’t have been appropriate to continue with the games as if nothing happened.”
Amy was one of several local athletes who were on the bubble of making it to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with just a few competitions left to determine her fate.
Another athlete in a similar position is weightlifter Yazmin Zammit-Stevens who was also expecting the unfortunate news but is prepared to turn a negative situation positive.
“A lot has happened in a week, and seeing how serious the situation is, I think it’s for the best,” she told Lovin Malta.
“Even though I’m lucky enough to train in my home garage, most athletes won’t be preparing as they should so I think it’s the right decision given the situation we’re in.”
“The whole world is under a lot of stress at the moment – be it business owners, athletes, healthcare workers and everyone else really. I just feel super lucky and blessed to be able to train, be healthy and be with my family during these tough times.”
Maltese athletes have been pouring their blood, sweat and tears over the past four years for a shot at the Olympics and, now that it’s postponed, they’re faced with a choice, call it a day or carry on until next year.
“ I will definitely do what I can to make it to the Olympics next year,” said Amy
“Once the current circumstances improve I will sit down with my coaches and discuss the way forward. It won’t be easy but I’m sure we will create a new plan to get back on track. I’ll have to work harder than ever to recover what I’ve lost in this period but I obviously don’t lose hope. This gives me one more year to work harder and get better.”
“I’ll continue to work hard over the next year to make it happen. I’ve done it for the past four years, one more is going to make a difference!” ended Yaz.
The Maltese Olympic Committee also welcomed the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in light of recent events.
“This decision was taken in the best interest of the health of the athletes and the general public in this sad period which the world is going through because of the COVID-19 virus,” they said.
“This decision is in line with the sentiments of the Maltese Olympic Committee, for whom the health and welfare of our athletes comes first and foremost.”
“The MOC would like to show its solidarity with all those athletes who have had already qualified for the Olympic Games, and also with all the other athletes who have put in hours of training and immense sacrifice for these games.”
Though the immediate future may seem bleak these Maltese athletes know that it’s a marathon and not a sprint and we’ll come out the other end stronger and more determined than ever.