Frustration and worry is common for athletes who see competitions and training cancelled because of the coronavirus and even their road to the Olympic Games called into question. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo
Frustration and worry is common for athletes who see competitions and training cancelled because of the coronavirus and even their road to the Olympic Games called into question. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

No competition, no ticket to Tokyo? Path to Games left in doubt

By Jens Marx Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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BERLIN  Last minute tickets? Hardship rules? Olympic exceptions? Almost half of all the athletes intended to make up the Tokyo Games have not yet qualified and with sport halted by the coronavirus, uncertainty rules.

In Germany, the Olympic sports body DOSB is supposed to officially nominate athletes from the Games between the end of May and early July.

But with qualification events widely cancelled or postponed, this plan is already fraught with difficulty.

Even International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, otherwise confident the Games will go on as planned from July 24, has acknowledged "serious problems" with the qualifying competitions.

"We will be very flexible and change the qualifying criteria accordingly," the 66-year-old recently told broadcaster ARD.

According to Bach, 55 per cent of qualified places have been taken with the rest still up for grabs. But it is currently impossible to predict when swimmers, rowers, wrestlers and runners can return to competition in Germany or anywhere else.

Berlin was due to host an April 17-19 qualifying tournament in handball with Germany meeting Sweden, Slovenia and Algeria in a contest for Olympic spots.

But the city ban on all gatherings of more than 50 people would seemingly make that impossible.

Twelve teams are supposed to make it to Japan to battle for medals but only six are qualified.

DOSB president Alfons Hoermann remains relaxed about the situation.

"This is a problem that I consider easy to solve," he told dpa. "The nomination criteria for Team Germany can be flexibly adjusted if the qualification tournaments cannot take place completely."

The IOC would also make its own adjustments.

"This is certainly the smallest worry we currently have," said Hoermann.

The German swimming federation is considering "a smaller competition with a maximum of 50 participants," national coach Bernd Berkhahn told the Magdeburger Volksstimme paper. "However, this would also have to be agreed with the health authority.

Berkhahn also warned: "Who now misses training for two to three weeks also has slim chances of a leading spot at the summer Games."

It is no different in other sports. Changing qualification standards is one thing, being ready to deliver top performances when it matters after weeks of muddled training another.

"Motivation and morale have completely left me, I could not train in the last four or five days," said Christopher Linke, who took fourth in the 20-kilometre race walk at the 2019 world championships.

He has achieved qualification for Tokyo but now needs competition for motivation and hone his performance.

"I don't go to training because it's so fun for me, rather because I know that it is part of top performance," he said. "Now I don't know any more what I should train for."

dpa

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