Tokyo Olympics will be canceled if not held in 2021, top official says

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TOKYO (AP) — Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister and now president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, told the newspaper Nikkan Sports there would be no more delays if the Games can’t be held in 2021.

“No, in that situation, it will be canceled,” he said. “In the past, when there were such problems, like wartime, it has been canceled. This time, we are fighting an invisible enemy.”

Mori added: “This is a gamble for mankind. If the world triumphs over the virus and we can hold the Olympics, then our Games will be so many times more valuable than any past Olympics.”

The medical community in Japan is moving toward a consensus that holding next year’s Olympics may hinge on finding a coronavirus vaccine.

Japan Medical Association president Yoshitake Yokokura said in a video media conference on Tuesday that the Olympics were possible only if the infections were under control, not only in Japan, but globally.

“In my view, it would be difficult to hold the Olympics unless effective vaccines are developed,” Yokokura said.

He did not say whether he opposes the Olympics without vaccines.

Japan has reported 13,576 COVID-19 cases, and 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year. On Tuesday, the health ministry reported 389 total deaths from the virus.

Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the Tokyo Games until July 23, 2021, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan is under a month-long state of emergency amid a rapid increase of infections across the country

A Japanese professor of infectious disease said last week he was also skeptical the Olympics could open in 15 months.

“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympics Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation,” said Kentaro Iwata, professor of infectious disease at Kobe University.

Devi Sridhar, a professor of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh, also said holding the Olympics may depend on finding a vaccine. This could also apply to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in China, where the coronavirus was first detected.

She said a vaccine was “optimistically 12 to 18 months away.”

“Science is just half the battle,” Sridhar said in an email to The Associated Press. “The other half is manufacturing enough doses and getting these into people across the world. How would prioritization be done?”

She asked who would get the vaccine first, health workers, those working with the vulnerable or the elderly, or the elderly themselves. Sridhar said it was unclear how young, strong, Olympic athletes would “fit” into the “priority process.”

“I’m sure there is going to be some innovative thinking about how to combine safety of athletes, their coaches and teams, with the awareness that sports play a crucial role for the world — for economic reasons, but also socially,” she said.

Masa Takaya, a spokesman for the Tokyo Olympics, said he was aware of the comments from the head of the Japan Medical Association.

“We understand there are a variety of insights, opinions around the possibility of hosting the Games next year,” Takaya said. “Some medical experts are also expressing that it is too early to made a judgment.”

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list with at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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