Tokyo 2020: Mountains athletes tell us what the postponement means for them

Five athletes tell us what it means to have the Olympic Games postponed for a year.

Angie Scarth-Johnson, sports climbing

The 15-year-old from Blackheath was sort of prepared for the inevitable games postponement, posting on her social media account recently that she was expecting Australia to follow suit after Canada and "put athletes health and safety first".

But she is still disappointed. This weekend she was expected to take part in the Oceania qualifiers for the Games. She recently returned from four months in Austria, putting in nine hour days training on cliffs and gyms with her specialist coach.

"I was at my peak," she said.

In the last 12 months she has completed another 8c+ climbing grade, making her the only Australian female to have done more then one. She came fourth in the World Youth Cup for bouldering.

Scarth-Johnson recently posted a photo showing the ultimate social distancing - hanging on a cliff alone - asking everyone to help "put an end to this madness and everyone please practice social distancing and isolation ... we need to do whatever it takes, any cost to protect our vulnerable, stay positive and spend some time with your family".

Training in Innsbruck, 20 minutes from the northern Italian border, the young climber believes she may have been infected with COVID-19, after developing a cough and flu-like symptoms a few days after returning to Australia in early March. The family has been in seclusion since.

"I'm not sure whether I did [have it] ... no-one else [in contact with me] got sick ... the hospital said we were not high risk."

Her family is in the process of re-building her small climbing wall at home while remaining in isolation.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures," she said. "My heart goes out to the businesses, health staff and everyone that has been affected."

"Mum says I'm lucky because I am young - for some people this was their last Olympics."

Tom O'Halloran

Tom O'Halloran

Tom O'Halloran, sports climbing

Tom O'Halloran was also on the verge of qualifying after winning the Australian Overall National Championships and geared up to compete in the Oceania Championships which were set down for March 28-29. He's now rebooting for next year.

"I think it's the right decision," he said. "The health of the athletes and all those involved needs to be a top priority. Also, to have a fair competition all athletes needs access to training. With shutdowns covering the globe, no athletes have proper access to these facilities. There can't be many people with a 50m pool in their backyard or a 15m high speed climbing wall.

"I was mostly glad they made the decision now and not in another few months. That would've been hard for everyone involved."

O'Halloran, 27 of Blackheath, said he is going to "try and get back to normal life. I've been really enjoying spending catch up time with family and getting out to the awesome cliffs in our backyard".

"I just hope we all pull through this. The Blue Mountains have had a very rough few months. Fires, torrential unrelenting rain and this virus. I hope everyone stays healthy, does their part and we can all get through this together."

Matt Wilson (left) with coach Adam Cable.

Matt Wilson (left) with coach Adam Cable.

Matt Wilson, swimmer

For Springwood swimmer Matt Wilson, who has been working towards the Olympic goal every day for four years, he was disappointed the games wouldn't happen this year, but supported the postponement.

"The situation we are in at the moment, with people's lives at stake, people losing jobs and the entire world in crisis, is far bigger than sport," he said.

"I am really happy that the Olympics have been moved to 2021 and not cancelled altogether, and am grateful that the IOC and Japanese Olympic Committee have come to this decision. It has given us all certainty and now allows me to refocus and start to prepare for the dream - the same dream, just a little bit later than planned."

In 2019, Wilson won a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke at the FINA World Swimming Championships, and was also part of Australia's 4x100m mixed medley gold medal win. For 24 hours, he had equalled the world record in the 200m breaststroke, before a new world record was set by Russian Anton Chupkov.

As the pools and gyms are now closed, the 21-year-old has had to improvise with training.

"I will continue my own training in a gym we have set up in my garage [in Sydney] and will use a bungee cord to swim in my parents' pool [in Springwood]. It's only a small pool, so the bungee cord will allow me to swim in one spot. That's about all I can do at the moment and whilst not ideal, it's better than nothing," Wilson said.

He said it has taken a while to adjust to being out of normal routine, but he has been staying home and social distancing.

"Like everyone else during this pandemic, I am staying home and observing all of the rules the government has put in place to try and reduce the spread of the virus and hope that life returns to normal as quickly as possible for everyone," Wilson said.

Amanda Spratt

Amanda Spratt

Amanda Spratt, cyclist

"To be honest when the announcement was made it wasn't a surprise. The Australian Olympic Committee had already indicated as much and so it felt more like a little bit of relief that the IOC also came to the same conclusion.

"Right now, we are in a global crisis and it's clear that the most important thing is the health and safety of everyone, and this should always be a priority over any cycling race or sporting event. I think it's really really important to remember this.

"We can all make a difference by taking it seriously and following the rules wherever we are, and I think this needs to be the focus now so we can do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus.


"Obviously there is disappointment that the Olympics in Tokyo won't happen this year after being such a huge goal of mine, but I'm happy they have postponed the event rather than cancelling it. My goals and dreams haven't changed it's just that the dates have changed and that's something I'm coming to terms with.

"It was also becoming clearer over the last few weeks that even if the Olympics had taken place it would not have been a fair Olympic games. So many athletes are now in lockdown, unable to train properly whilst others can still train outside like normal. I also think the Olympics should be a celebration of sport and a chance to inspire and be inspired. In the current global crisis this would not have been possible or appropriate."

The 32-year-old has re-adjusted and adapted her goals, but knows it's hard to plan ahead. In January, Spratt was third in the Womens Tour Down Under in Adelaide, and won the Australian National Road Race Championships in Ballarat, before returning to Europe in February.

"We don't know really when the next race will be, but I will plan as if the Giro-Rosa can be on and if that doesn't happen, I will move onto further goals in the season. I am always more of an optimist and like to be positive so I prefer to have this mindset now to help my focus and motivation moving forwards," she said.

Jessica Fox

Jessica Fox

Jess Fox, canoe slalom

"I have been expecting this for the last few weeks just seeing how everything is unfolding around the world, it didn't seem possible to have the Olympics this year so I guess I have been mentally preparing for that outcome. Everyone's lives has been disrupted by COVID-19 so we are not the only ones having to readjust to this new norm and try and make it through this period," the former Blaxland High student said.

"It was ironic that on the day it was announced the games would be postponed, we were meant to be flying to Tokyo for our first training camp on the whitewater course and I also received my Olympic kayak - which will most likely stay in the garage for a few months!

"For me it's just a delay and it will be hard to train without any access to whitewater or competitions in sight this year, but I am still focused on the goal of Tokyo next year and will do what I can at home," Fox said.

The two-time Olympian has already been selected on the Australian team, so she won't need to requalify.

"Now that all training venues are closed, I have taken some things to set up a gym at home, brought my kayaks home to go on the Nepean River by myself while we still can, and I'll do some running as well. It will have a big impact on our specific training since we can't have access to whitewater for the next few months but I'll do what I can do, maintain fitness and strength at home and work on other areas by being creative."