Last night it was announced by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) that Canada will not send any athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if they are held in July. Learning of this news, via an Instagram post, made me feel nauseous, light headed, and as though my heart had dropped right through my stomach.
Since the announcement mid February that Hong Kong 7’s had been put on hold until next season things have started to unravel at an alarming pace. Next it was postponing Langford 7’s and Paris 7’s, but I believed there was a glimmer of hope that the 2020 Olympics might still be a possibility. Yesterday we learned the COC will not send any athletes to the Olympics in July. Our rugby season is affectively finished, just like that. We no longer have a competition to work towards this season. The next few months will be full of question marks, about our future in this sport, and how our original plans post 2020 Olympics might need to alter. Some athletes intended to continue in their respective sports, others might be looking to go to school, move back to their hometown, or retire to start a family. Now tough decisions must be made.
I understand fully that this pandemic is bigger than the Olympics, it is about more than myself, and more than my own personal dreams. It would be selfish of me to think the Olympics should go as planned, knowing it puts so many people at risk. My dream is not more important than the lives of others. I can imagine this is absolutely crushing for all the athletes hoping to compete in July but we must be selfless. We must ask ourselves what choice would we have made if we were part of the decision making committee, and sympathize with the tough verdict they needed to make. It is simply not a smart or sensible choice to send 1100 Canadian athletes, followed by thousands of family, friends, and fans, to Tokyo to compete. You may be thinking these athletes are young and healthy, and it won’t harm them but we know it isn’t that simple, everyone is at risk of this virus. Not only that, we need to consider everyone involved in making the Olympic events possible. This includes not only the athletes but the entire coaching staff, medical staff, the fans in the stands, and volunteers that ensure the Olympics run successfully. Some of these people are considered especially vulnerable to the virus, some of them are older or are not in the greatest of health. Additionally, we must consider what happens when the games are completed and the athletes are sent back to their home nations, spreading the virus farther and further.
Many Canadian Olympic hopefuls haven’t even qualified yet for Tokyo, and in order to make qualifications we’d be encouraging they go against all protocols put in place that have been made protect our health. Ethically, it doesn’t make sense. Athletes should not be put in this compromising position. How do we expect contact sports to practice? What about sports that regularly practice in pools? What are the Olympics really worth to us? Due to social distancing athletes are not currently equipped to train at their best, or to perform at their best, so if the Olympics are held in July 2020, we would not be giving the fans our greatest performances.
I think I speak for many Canadian athletes when I say we are all advocates of health, team unity and support, goal setting, safety, cohesion, a joint effort, collaboration (I could go on and on) so expressing that you feel that your participation in the Olympics at this time (in this state of global emergency) is more important to you, would go against all that we stand for. Due to this I am able to accept the difficult decisions made by the COC. I hope nations around the world also weigh the costs, and can collaborate to postpone the Olympics to a later date. A safer date, a date that can promise inclusion of all nations, and the safety of all nations.
I applaud all athletes who, despite being devastated at this time, are also standing up for the COC’s decision. I applaud all those who continue to train as much as they can, and those who are pushing themselves every damn day, mentally and physically. It is my sincerest hope the Olympics are postponed, to allow for every nation to strive towards a spot on the podium. Let’s be ready to cheer our Canadians on once the Olympics are hopefully rescheduled.
Canada took the lead with this decision, and I’m predicting more will follow. At this time, we Canadian athletes will continue to represent our nation, to the best of our abilities, and we will continue to make Canada proud in all ways possible by practicing the protocols in place to ensure this pandemic gets under control. I’m still in shock as I write this with tears in my eyes, I still feel sick with uncertainty in my stomach. I don’t think I’ve fully accepted the news. I keep telling myself that I’ve worked 8 years to go to the Olympics, I can wait this out and make it another year. I ask that if you have friends or family who have been working towards the 2020 Olympics please be as sympathetic and understanding at this time, this is a hard pill to swallow.
And lastly, I’d like to personally thank all of my family, friends, teammates and coaches who have been supporting me on my journey and who continue to support me and my dreams, it’s been a long winding road, and I can promise I’m not done yet. I appreciate you all.
TRUE NORTH STRONG