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Hockey field to hospital ward; Olympian’s life amid coronavirus pandemic

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PERTH, Australia (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic ended any chance of Rachael Lynch competing for Olympic gold in Tokyo this year. Now she’s switching into the medical mode to take on the virus.

Lynch, the goalkeeper for Australia’s women’s field hockey team, is a registered nurse.

So after the Olympics were postponed to July of next year, Lynch applied to work as a registered nurse at two COVID-19 clinics in the Western Australia state capital.

Lynch was already working a day a week in a neuro-rehabilitation ward — part of her of work-life balance with training for elite sport. She initially didn’t have any scheduled shifts last week because the national squad — the Hockeyroos — were supposed to be in Europe preparing for the Olympics.

“As soon as we finished up on Monday I went in and saw my boss,” the 33-year-old Lynch, rated among the best goalkeeper’s globally in the sport, told the Australian Associated Press. “They’re trying to recruit as many nurses and healthcare workers as they can, because they’re anticipating the load is going to be massive soon.

“For the first time since being a graduate, I’m able to work full time” as a nurse.

Lynch has been frustrated by seeing images of people gathering on beaches in parts of Australia and others of people not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough, despite government policies to curb travel and ensure social distancing.

“Anybody in hospital for any reason, they’re now put at risk (because of that), Lynch said.

There have been more than 5,000 infections and 24 deaths in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic. Altogether, close to 940,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, according to a tally being kept by Johns Hopkins University. More than 47,000 people have died from the virus, which was first detected in China late last year.

Lynch said focusing on work meant she didn’t have time to dwell on missing an opportunity at the Olympics. The Australians were knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2016. With 150 international caps and a World Cup silver medal, Lynch is open-minded about her playing future.

“Most of the advice in the sporting world is to not make any big decisions now,” she told AAP. “I’ve reflected on the thoughts, words and emotions you might use to describe an Olympics being postponed.

“None of them are relevant now. You can’t say — devastated, disappointed or sad — because it just does not compare to what’s actually happening in the world right now.”

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Olympic flame goes on limited display in Fukushima

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TOKYO (AP) — The Olympic flame will be on display until the end of April in Japan’s northeastern prefecture of Fukushima.

Tokyo Olympic and prefecture officials held an official “handover ceremony” on Wednesday at the J-Village National Training Center in Fukushima.

The public will have limited access to view the flame, and organizers hope to limit the crowd size because of restrictions in place for the coronavirus.

The flame arrived in Japan from Greece on March 20 and the torch relay was to have started last week from Fukushima. The flame has remained in the prefecture with Wednesday’s event merely ceremonial.

“After this, nothing has been decided yet,” said Yukihiko Nunomura, the chief operating officer of the Tokyo organizing committee. “We have to consider the coronavirus situation and such, but I think for now the basic assumption is that it will return to the host city of Tokyo.”

The Fukushima prefecture is the region of Japan that was devastated in 2011 by an earthquake, tsunami, and the subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

Olympic officials have postponed the Tokyo Games until next year with the opening now set for July 23, 2021.

The flame was to help put a focus on the region’s struggle to recover from the events nine years ago. However, the emphasis of the Olympics next year is likely to shift to the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

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IOC official says no deadline on Olympic decision

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SYDNEY (AP) — The leader of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics said there is no May deadline to cancel the Games, and he remains confident the event will go ahead despite sports coming to a virtual standstill globally amid the coronavirus outbreak.

John Coates, who will have to go into government-mandated self-isolation when he returns to Australia this week from Olympic business in Europe, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “It’s all proceeding to start on the 24th of July.”

Dick Pound, a former IOC vice president, said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that the end of May loomed as a possible deadline for the IOC to make a call on the Tokyo Olympics.

But Coates, an IOC vice president and head of the Australian Olympic Committee, told the paper in a telephone interview from Switzerland that the IOC didn’t recognize the deadline and he thought Pound had backed away from it, too.

“It’s never been the IOC’s position. It was Dick’s idea. There is four months to go,” Coates told the newspaper on Monday.

The pandemic has caused postponements and uncertainty for qualifying in some Olympic sports, although the IOC and Tokyo organizers have consistently said the Games will go ahead as scheduled.

“The difficulty for those who have qualified or will qualify is they won’t get any more international competition,” Coates said, adding that some countries may have to base selections on time trials or previous performances.

As for athletes traveling to Japan from affected countries, Coates said some National Olympic Committees were already preparing.

“The Chinese are probably the best organized,” he told the newspaper. “The Chinese are in various parts of Europe, and the last I heard is they’re bringing them all together in a university in Paris where they’ll be fully contained, 600 of them, and they will go straight from confinement there, straight into Japan. They won’t put anyone on a plane who has got coronavirus.

“They’re all basically in serious lockdown.”

The Olympics open on July 24, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 25.

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