Women's Sport: Athletes including Katarina Johnson-Thompson criticise the IOC's Olympics stance

Yesterday, the International Olympic Committee said that they were still planning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to go ahead as normal and that athletes should continue preparing “as best they can”. But is this possible?

Heptathlon World Champion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson says it’s not, tweeting about the current conflicts she is facing. She said: “I understand that sport isn’t everything and there are more important issues surrounding coronavirus but thought I would speak out purely on what my situation of it has been.”

Johnson-Thompson, who trains in France, explained that she is now unable to train in the country and is coming back to the UK, where she may also face significant limitations. Beyond the day-to-day, she is unable to go to a training camp in America and her competition plan has been transformed.

The heptathlete, a Team GB medal prospect, pointed out that the IOC’s advice for “athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as best they can” clashes with government legislation promoting isolation at home and the closure of public spaces where Johnson-Thompson would train.

She said: “I feel under pressure to train and keep the same routine which is impossible.

“I’m in a very fortunate place given the circumstances. I’m healthy, well supported and I have qualified for the Olympics. But at this moment it’s difficult to approach the season when everything has changed in the lead up apart from the ultimate deadline.”

She isn’t the only athlete. British middle-distance runner Jessica Judd who represented Great Britain in the 5,000m at the 2019 World Championships, tweeted her confusion about the IOC’s statement.

She wrote: “How on earth are we meant to carry on preparing best we can? Will someone share with me what races we can do to get times and whether trials will go ahead and when training can return to normal?!” 

Even an IOC member has criticised the move. Hayley Wickenheiser, a six-time Olympian for Canada who is now training as a doctor, tweeted: “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and over the past few days my perspective has changed. I was voted to represent and protect athletes.”  

She wrote: “This crisis is bigger than even the Olympics. Athletes can’t train. Attendees can’t travel plan. Sponsors and marketers can’t market with any degree of sensitivity. 

“I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity. We don’t know what’s happening in the next 24 hours let alone in the next three months.”

Yesterday the IOC released a statement affirming their commitment to this year’s Olympics. They said: “The IOC remains fully committed to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and with more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive.”

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