Coronavirus: Benjamin Pritchard 'grieving' over Paralympic delay

Benjamin Pritchard rowing in Poznan, Poland
Benjamin Pritchard won bronze in his debut World Cup race at Poznan in June 2019

Para-rower Benjamin Pritchard will refocus after the delay to the Tokyo Paralympic Games but says it will take time to "emotionally digest".

Along with the Olympics, the Games have been put back to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pritchard believes athletes will "feel lost" even if it was the only option.

"We kind of all had false hope the Games were going ahead," he said, "but then we saw events getting cancelled around the world.

"Whilst I wanted to go out and compete it was the only right decision for the Games to be postponed.

"The last 18 months have been aiming for the Games, for others it has been four years, so the announcement is a massive shock and almost some grieving needs to be done before you can focus on the new Games.

"That may sound silly to some people but you put so much energy and effort into preparing for the Games that to be told they are not going ahead is a massive loss.

"There will be a lot of athletes who feel lost in this period. We can all digest what has happened but we also need to emotionally digest and I think that will take some time."

Welshman Pritchard, 28, had already secured Great Britain's place at the Games in his category - PR1 M1x - by finishing fourth at the 2019 World Championships.

However, he still has to come through British trials in order to ensure he will be part of the GB Paralympic squad.

The new dates for the postponed Paralympics have been announced for 24 August until 5 September 2021, but the qualification process remains to be settled.

"Qualification is at the back of everyone's mind," he told BBC Sport Wales, "so once we have the new date we will be going through selection again and I will do everything I can to put my hat in the ring and show selectors I am worthy of going.

"It's just unprecedented isn't it, you're sitting there looking at the numbers and infection rates and the death toll and it just shows you how small sport is and that's coming from a massive sports fan that would have sport on every day if he could.

"You have just got to sit there and think this is bigger than me and whatever I can do to help I will do."

Pritchard is paralysed from the waist down following a cycling crash in 2016, and the government has included him in the vulnerable bracket during the pandemic.

"I'm young, I'm fit and I'm healthy, I can do what I can," he said.

"We have some old neighbours in our street. I knock on their windows, check they're okay and have a chat through the window so they don't feel alone in this time.

"That probably is what I can do. What I won't be doing is going around the supermarkets touching things everyone else has done."

Pritchard recently got engaged and was aiming to get married in 2021.

"We made the plan for the wedding to be post-Games, so 2021 because I didn't want to plan a wedding and have the Paralympics in the same year," he said.

"However Covid-19 has had other ideas, so it looks like I'll be having the Games and my wedding in the same year!"

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