Tokyo 2020 postponement: GB Paralympians welcome decision to delay Games

Hannah Cockroft on her way to winning gold in Rio
Hannah Cockroft on her way to winning gold in Rio

British Paralympians, including Hannah Cockroft and Kadeena Cox, say the postponement of Tokyo 2020 is disappointing, but the right thing.

The Paralympics and the Olympics were called off on Tuesday because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and are now expected to take place in 2021.

“I’m a little bit gutted, but totally understand this is the best situation,” Cockroft said on social media.

Cox added: "The right choice. Health before everything.”

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons said: “The health and well-being of human life must always be our number one priority and staging a sport event of any kind during this pandemic is simply not possible.”

Over the last week, many British athletes hoping to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics were seeing their training centres close because of the impact of the virus with others self-isolating or in virtual lockdown because of complex health conditions.

Five-time gold medallist Cockroft, 27, and her boyfriend and fellow Paralympic wheelchair racer Nathan Maguire, 22, are among those now confined to training from home.

“We’ve been working really hard – the Games is the pinnacle for every Paralympian,” she said.

“We put so much into being in the shape of our lives for these Games, to add another year to those four is tough.

“Everyone will still be confused about what to do next and where to go but it is an extra year to get fitter and faster.”

Cox who was due to compete in cycling and athletics events in Japan told BBC Radio 5 Live last week that she was already taking extra precautions against coronavirus because she has multiple sclerosis, including setting up her training bike in the living room of her home.

“Let’s all stick together through these tough times and when the time is right we can enjoy the Games and its legacy,” she added after Tuesday’s postponement.

Fellow cyclist Lora Fachie, who won tandem pursuit gold in Rio admitted on Twitter that she had shed a few tears when the news of the postponement was confirmed

“On a personal level I am devastated,” said the 31-year-old whose husband and fellow visually impaired cyclist Neil is also in training for the Games.

“Tokyo 2020 has been my target for the past four years. I’ve lived, slept and breathed it, giving me focus and drive.

“But is also without doubt the right decision to have made. Back to the drawing board we go.”

British Paralympic Association chief executive Mike Sharrock said they were already implementing contingency plans to ensure British athletes had everything in place to be best prepared for the Games in 2021.

“We recognise that there are a huge range of factors to be considered when looking to postpone an event at this scale and we acknowledge the scale of the challenge for our friends at the Tokyo organising committee, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee in addressing these.

“Now is the time for us all to work together to overcome this global threat.”