Belgium men’s hockey team captain Thomas Briels said that postponing the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 was the right thing to do, keeping in mind the health and safety of everyone involved.
Briels, a triple Olympian and silver medallist at Rio 2016, hoped for the Games to be held in a safer environment in front of spectators.
“It (postponing Olympics) is very sad, but I think we need to think about the safety and health of everyone in the world. Probably, it is a good and safer idea to postpone the Games so we can enjoy it more with a lot of supporters,” Briels told Sportstar in a Q&A session on Instagram.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed over 18,000 lives and affected close to 4,00,000 worldwide, brought the world of sport to a screeching halt and has forced the International Olympic Committee to take the big decision to postpone the Games to 2021, on Tuesday.
Last week, International Hockey Federation had postponed international matches till May 17 which includes Belgium’s Pro League matches against Germany on March 19 and 26.
“I still can’t really believe it! Who would have thought we would be locked down a month ago. But it is what it is, hopefully we can get through it all together and learn from it and appreciate more what we have in life. My thoughts are with all the people who are suffering at the moment,” Briels said.
Briels, who is currently in isolation at his home in Antwerp, is utilising the time to keep himself fit and engaging with fans on social media to keep his mind occupied.
“We are lucky we can still go outside for a run. So I am doing an individual running program and a fitness program at home with some weights. And answering Instagram questions,” the Belgian skipper added.
The 32-year old also spoke of Belgium’s sustained success over the past few years which began with the Olympic silver medal at Rio 2016 which was followed by the 2018 World Cup title in Bhubaneswar and the 2019 European Championship crown.
“I think we have been playing a long time together with a big squad and we have gone through a lot together. The young talents who are coming in are easily integrated into our team. And we really are a team, we play for each other,” Briels, who has 343 international caps for Belgium, said.
For Briels, winning the bronze medal at the 2007 European Championship served as the flashpoint for Belgium. The win took the Red Lions’ to its first Olympics finals after a gap of 32 years. “A lot of changed after the European cup in 2007,” he said.
Until then, Belgium had just one major international medal to its name – a bronze medal at the 1920 Olympics.
After finishing eighth at 2008 Beijing Olympics, it took Belgium five years to win its next major medal – a silver at the 2013 European Championship.
By appointing New Zealand tactician Shane McLeod in 2016, Belgium found alchemy. Water-tight defence and aggressive pressing where the hallmarks of the team as McLeod’s men became the first Belgian side to lift a world title in a team sport at the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
“In the end, the result is the most important thing. But if you perfect your playing style the result will follow while having fun,” he said.
Belgium is currently the No. 1 team in the men’s rankings and is on top of the Pro League 2020 standings with 16 points from 6 matches.
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