The Indian national table tennis team has lauded and welcomed the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.
On Tuesday, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and the head of the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the 2020 Games by a year in an extraordinary move as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was taken considering the worldwide effect of the COVID-19 threat, and the safety of everyone involved with the Olympics.
India’s highest-ranked paddler, G. Sathiyan, said the postponement is the best move and that the “cancellation would have been the worst”.
“It’s definitely a good move. It was expected [given] the way the pandemic has destroyed so many lives, the economies, and continues to have a devastating effect on many countries. Health is the priority. It would have been a disaster if athletes would have been diagnosed with COVID-19 during the Games. It is a safe move for everyone.”
“We will have to see what steps the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) takes to go about the scheduled tournaments, the ranking system (which is very crucial) and carrying out the Olympic qualifiers. There are a lot of questions that only the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and ITTF can answer. [There is] no doubt that we will now have to make changes to our plans and train differently going forward,” he added.
World no. 87 Harmeet Desai, who is currently in self-isolation in his home town in Surat, also welcomed the move. “It was the right step to take. Most athletes were eagerly waiting for the announcement. Everyone’s safety comes first and hopefully, the situation normalises throughout the world. Once that is achieved, then we can get back to thinking about the next steps. It is important for all of us to stay mentally strong and deal with the situation positively.”
Sanil Shetty, who was looking to get back to playing more regularly in the coming months after recovering from a shoulder injury last year, also echoed similar sentiments. “I think everyone aims for the Olympics and works really hard on it but the postponement has brought a hard time for the players. But it was also important to control this fast-spreading virus. I feel it was the best option to postpone the Games as players are not getting enough time for training.”
Amalraj Anthony, who had skipped the Oman Open after qualifying for the main draw at Qatar Open, also emphasised on the safety of people being of utmost importance. “Postponing the Olympics is absolutely the right decision because life is more important. It [Olympics] is a big event, no doubt, but it’s not bigger than our health. Moreover, it’s just not about yourself because anything that happens to you affects your entire family. Most young people can recover due to a good immune system, but that’s not the case with people at home. So, this was the right step to take.”
TTFI’s secretary general, M.P. Singh also agreed with the decision to move the Olympics to next year. When asked about the plan of action ahead, he told Sportstar : “There is nothing we can do right now. ITTF has anyway suspended all tournaments till April 30 and their offices are also closed for the same period. Once they are back, they will sit together and plan the course of action ahead.”
“I can’t say whether we will get to see a new rankings system or not. The World Championships (originally scheduled to take place in March) will happen but it is difficult to say when,” he added.
Indian paddlers were due to take part in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers for the singles event in Bangkok in April. Even though the event, as of now, stands postponed, he is not worried about the qualification. “Three players [G. Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra] more or less have secured a place due to their rankings and the quotas available. If Sutirtha [Mukherjee] wins, then we will have four players going to the Olympics. So, when the qualifying tournaments happen, our players are most likely to make the cut.” he added.
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