Hindustan Times, New Delhi
As the global sports industry reels under the pandemic-induced break; athletes have been forced to play an unpleasant waiting game. With a series of major events across the world being postponed or cancelled, there is hardly a sport that hasn’t taken a hit. While the financial fallout will be distressing for all major sports, some disciplines have been hit disproportionately because of the way they function or the calendar they follow.
That this was an Olympic year means many athletes taking part in the quadrennial event have had to alter their plans for this year and coming years. Track and field – one of the biggest attractions at the Summer Olympic Games – is among the hardest hit with short-term and long-term preparations of athletes getting affected.
So far, six Diamond League meetings have been postponed, with another three downgraded or suspended. The World Championships at Oregon and World Indoor Championships at Nanjing have been pushed back by a year to 2022 and 2021, respectively. The European Athletics Championships in Paris has been cancelled.
SMALL WINDOW FOR SHOT AT GLORY
For track and field athletes, things don’t get bigger than the Olympics, the popularity of the biennial World Championships notwithstanding. Being one of the most followed disciplines at the Summer Games, athletes prepare accordingly for this specific timeframe.
Any change in schedule, therefore, can have significant consequences on how an athlete prepares for competition; although the impact on athletes will vary.
Pole vault star and world record holder Mondo Duplantis, for instance, is making the most of a setup in his backyard, using it to stay sharp, as a video on his Instagram account shows.
There are some like Russian high jumper Mariya Lasitskene, whose Olympic fate remains unclear. Despite dominating her discipline with a gold medal in each of the last three World Championships, Lasitskene missed the Rio Games due to the Russian doping scandal. She will continue to face uncertainty for now.
American sprinters Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman would have been among the young crop competing to take over the mantle in the marquee 100m and 200m from Usain Bolt in what was to be the first Olympic Games since the Jamaican’s retirement.
This could also have been the year for rising American hurdler Sydney McLaughlin at the biggest of stages. Like many other young athletes of her age, the wait will now be prolonged.
There does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel. While doubts remain on the impact of the pandemic, some stakeholders seem to be quietly confident of at least a partial resumption through small-scale events in Europe.
The Diamond League is planning an exhibition event in Norway in June to test the waters. Norway’s double world champion Karsten Warholm and Duplantis are among the stars expected to take part if things go as planned.
Titled ‘The Impossible Games’, the event will be held in line with pandemic guidelines in the Scandinavian nation.
“This is really positive news for athletes and fans and promises, even in this early stage, to be another great night of athletics from the Bislett stadium,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement.
Another event of a smaller magnitude, the Josef Odlozil Memorial in Prague, will be staged as planned on June 8 but with only 50-60 competitors. “(We want) to give our athletes some motivation to continue training and start their preparations for next year’s Olympics,” meet director Miroslav Sevcik was quoted as saying by AP.
The success of these events can be of help to World Athletics and member bodies to gauge how they can go ahead with other events ahead of next year’s rescheduled Olympic Games.
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