Tokyo Paralympics: Tanni Grey-Thompson backs the postponement of Games

Baroness Grey-Thompson wins Lifetime Achievement award

Baroness Grey-Thompson has backed the decision to postpone the Tokyo Paralympics from 2020 to 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the 11-time Paralympic gold medallist says the delay may deny some established competitors a Games swansong.

"There's no winners in this really," she said.

Grey-Thompson also highlighted the dangers disabled athletes face from coronavirus.

"There are some who have underlying health conditions," she told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"There are some who don't have an impairment. But you know, it's really difficult at this time for every disabled person.

"A lot of disabled people with high needs have been told to stay in for 12 weeks... so there will be some Paralympians who will have to self-isolate."

Grey-Thompson says training at home will also prove problematic.

"I think the big difficulty for training is now we have these amazing high performance centres, a lot of athletes don't have the equipment or aren't used to training at home.

Social isolation

"They just won't be used to being alone. You spent a lot of time with a small group of people as an athlete, and that will go, so they'll have to get used to a sort of social isolation as well."

However, Grey-Thompson says postponing the Paralympics and Olympics was the right decision.

"I think most people are just quite relieved that they know what's happening. It was very difficult, qualification events were shut into sort of lock down.

"I think it was the right thing for the IOC in the IPC to postpone, but there's no doubt that Tokyo would have kept people in the system and one year will be too much for them.

"But I don't think for the spectators, coaches, support staff, anybody, it was the right thing to do to try and run a game session or even postponed a couple of months.

"Because then you get into very bad weather in Japan. So that doesn't solve problems either."

New qualification timetable?

Grey-Thompson says sports' governing bodies must now find a way to ensure the best competitors reach Tokyo 2021.

Many sports and events have two-year qualifying periods, but many are unlikely to go ahead in 2020.

"I think they need to know about it as soon as the governing bodies can possibly get it out," she said.

"Because it's unlikely there's going to be that many competitions this year.

"So you then go back into quite a short qualification period.

"As much as athletes are relieved that they know the Games are postponed, they'll start getting slightly stressed about what that qualification is going to be.

"Because you want the right athletes get into the Games, not ones who can just go around and maybe potentially afford to do lots of races."

'We can listen to advice and keep safe'

Wales and GB star Aled Sion Davies is aiming for a third consecutive gold medal after successes at London in 2012 and the Rio Games four years later.

He admits the postponement left him with mixed emotions.

"We can now stay at home with our families, listen to the advice from government and just keep safe," he said.

"Of course it's a disappointment, but it's not the end of the world. It's only been put back a year and there is a greater cause at this present time.

"We have to think of everyone in this situation, we can now help others at home. Up until now to an extent I've only been able to think about myself and my preparation, but now we're able to help at home."

Sion-Davies has previously spoken publicly about his own mental health issues and understands the anxiety many will experience.

"Certainly it will be scary, nobody has ever experienced anything like this so we have to listen to government advice and stay at home, look after our families and think about one another and as a country we can prevail and come through stronger."

Stephen Morris, Paralympic 1500m runner: "One more year. New plan. Same target."

Ben Pritchard, Paralympic rower: "Tokyo 2020 to be postponed. Right now the world is facing a global pandemic. Sport is a very minor part in this and whilst I am saddened by today's announcement, I applaud the IPC in making the right decision. The goal posts have moved, but the aim is the same."

Hollie Arnold, Paralympic javelin thrower: "2021 is the new 2020... Heartbreaking news to get my head round that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will be postponed until 2021. I fully understand that it's the correct decision and the safest option for all athletes and everyone else involved. Stay safe. Be kind."