Parasports March 26, 2020
Heart-breaking, but relieved – India’s para sportspersons react to 2020 Paralympics postponement
It’s finally official. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games stand postponed until next year due to the worldwide coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. The news was expected given the widespread impact of the virus and Indian Paralympians are waiting for some clarity regarding the remaining qualifier games.
“Humanity is supreme. The Games are not more important than people”. This is Paralympian Ekta Bhyan’s stoic response to the news of the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. The event, due to begin on 24 July, will now take place “no later than summer 2021”, said Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It will still be called Tokyo 2020.
Ekta, the Asia champ in club throw and discus throw, had secured a place in the Paralympics after her outstanding performance at the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships. She says the postponement was inevitable given the world situation. “The important thing is for people to come out of this. Right now, I am thinking about how so many people are suffering due to coronavirus/COVID-19”.
Games will still be called Tokyo 2020
The pandemic has put an abrupt stop to not just the training programmes of athletes but also crucial qualification events. A substantial quota is yet to be filled and there are also questions about the fate of those who have qualified.
“There is no clarity on what the International Olympic Association plans to do,” said Lieutenant Colonel Gaurav Dutta, India’s only para-triathlete and Chair, RFI Para Rowing Commission. “As per the letters being given out, about 37% of the quota is still vacant. None of the qualification events can start before October-November this year. I hope that the situation of those who qualified will stay as is. I doubt there will be re-qualification events”.
Calling the postponement, a logical decision, Gaurav Khanna, Referee and Para Badminton Coach, India, shared his concerns about the qualification events. “The players have gone back home for now and are looking towards 2021. The qualification aspect is a big concern. We want to know whether players who have qualified are still through”.
Financial & psychological loss suffered
Financial loss aside, Lt Col Dutta is concerned about the psychological impact. “There are many para athletes who have waited eight to 10 years to qualify for the Paralympics. They didn’t qualify for the Rio Games but have been in training for Tokyo and this is going to be a major blow for them”.
For the moment, Ekta is training at home. “I have a home gym and I put in two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. Obviously, it is scaled down as I am not on the ground. I will do whatever I can at home. I am sure we India will rock the Games next year”.