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Tatjana has more time to improve her skills

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Decision to postpone Tokyo Olympics ‘needed to be made’

Two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker says she is greatly relieved that the Tokyo Olympics has been postponed to next year.

In the light of her conquests on the world swimming circuit last year, Schoenmaker has emerged as one of South Africa’s leading medal contenders for future global events. Last year she racked up medals at the World Student Games, Fina World Championships and the Tokyo World Cup.

These milestone achievements all contributed to her being crowned Sports Star of the Year and Sportswoman of the Year at last year’s SA Sports Awards.  

“It is a decision (postponing the Tokyo Games) that was needed to be made as peoples’ lives are at risk due to the worldwide coronavirus,” said Schoenmaker.

“From a personal perspective, the cancellation is a let-down. For 15 years it has been my dream to compete at an Olympic Games. 2020 would have been it. But then again, what difference is another year going to make?

“It gives me more time to improve my swimming skills. I got a fantastic team supporting me, which means postponing my programme by a year ought not to be a problem.”

Schoenmaker said the last few weeks was shrouded in mystery as the COVID-19 pandemic made its presence felt around the world. It cast doubts over the Tokyo Olympics taking place.

“The reality is that South Africa will go into lockdown. I am not sure if it would have been possible to continue to train,” she said.

Schoenmaker said he was relieved that the “waiting game” was over and that swimmers could enjoy the benefit of extra time to prepare for next year’s Games.  

Meanwhile, the IOC is working with sports bodies to arrange a July-August window for the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and hopes to confirm the schedule within a month, Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper reported yesterday.

John Coates, the IOC’s co-ordination commission chief for Tokyo, told the Yomiuri that the Games would have to be held between the tennis Grand Slams of Wimbledon, slated to end in mid-July, and the US Open, which starts in late August.

“We want to more or less finalise the dates in four weeks’ time,” the paper quoted Coates as saying.

Coates, who is also president of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), said the middle of the year scheduling would be dependent on avoiding clashes with the world championships for swimming (July 16-August 1) and athletics (August 6-15).

World Athletics boss Sebastian Coe has said the world athletics championships in Eugene, Oregon could be moved back to 2022 if necessary.

Coates told the newspaper the hope was to follow the same arrangements next year that had been planned for 2020, including holding the marathon in the northern city of Sapporo instead of Tokyo to escape the heat.