Coronavirus: Whitlock still working for Tokyo 2020 amid calls for Olympics to be postponed

By Sports Desk March 23, 2020

Max Whitlock plans to continue working towards competing in Tokyo this year but admits the prospect of the Olympics being postponed is "gutting".

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Sunday they have set a four-week deadline to make a decision on the staging of the 2020 Games, which are due to get under way on July 24.

Both USA Track and Field and USA Swimming have called for a move to 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak, while Canada have ruled out sending athletes to the Olympic or Paralympic Games if they go ahead as planned.

Despite the uncertainty, British gymnast Whitlock - who won two gold medals in Rio four years ago - will remain on schedule with his training until told otherwise.

"I'm trying to stay positive but it is gutting," Whitlock told the Standard. "I was training hard for the upcoming competitions but we are being told that the Olympics is still going ahead.

"That's a great thing for me; I'm still motivated and it's important to keep that mindset because that’s what keeps me going."

He added: “I'm not even thinking about a situation where the Olympics doesn’t go ahead because as soon as you do that, that’s where motivation will dip.

“I won't go away from that mindset until I'm told differently.

"I think that's where a lot of athletes are struggling, feeling like they need to know now. But these are big decisions that need to be made and we need to be patient."

Many pre-Olympic events have already been cancelled due to COVID-19, forcing Whitlock to make alternative arrangements as he aims to stay sharp.

"It's not just the training that prepares you for an Olympic Games, it’s the competitions that you have," the 27-year-old explained. "I need to prepare as close to that plan as possible.

"I'll be going on social media live with a routine so that I'm put under pressure. People will be watching and I want to do a good job.

"I know it's not me competing in an arena, but it's the closest I can get."

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  • Big-impact athletes not making a dent on climate change Big-impact athletes not making a dent on climate change

    The effects of climate change are staring athletes dead in the eye.

    The increased expenses of cooling Stadia around the world should be disturbing enough.

    It’s full time athletes advocate for the environment.

    Yes, climate change affects everybody.

    The thing is, I can list everyday people who try to spread knowledge about it. I remember reaching out to Suzanne Stanley, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust because I was curious.

    I wanted to know more about the environment and climate change and I wanted to share that knowledge with others. She answered all my questions.

    There aren’t many athletes who, with their millions of Instagram followers and big endorsement contracts who have taken similar steps. Maybe it isn’t their job, but it is their business.

    Sport contributes to climate change in more ways than we think. Researchers have even dubbed the industry’s impact on the environment, an ‘inconvenient truth’.

    Here’s one example. To fill a stadium ahead of an event, athletes, spectators and the media travel. This travel impacts the environment in major ways. Air travel, driving by bus, taxi, or personal vehicles add to the regular release of carbon dioxide into the air.

    Carbon dioxide traps heat— increasing the global temperature. As places get hotter, you may find just as sport impacted the environment, the environment will now begin to impact sport.

    At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, water breaks became a regular part of the game. Interestingly, water breaks just to help footballers survive 90 minutes on the pitch are expected to be part of the sport for the foreseeable future. Will we wait until the medical requirements for playing a game of football become too prohibitive for the game to be played? Maybe that is too far down the road for some of us to look.

    Cutting down trees increases temperatures as well. We need trees because they absorb carbon dioxide. Less carbon dioxide, less trapping of heat, cooler temperatures.

    However, every few years, there are a number of cities and/or countries that bid on major international events like the World Cup or the Olympic Games. For a bid to be successful, that country or city has to prove it can provide the facilities to host those games.

    Yes, you guessed it, these stadia are going to be built at the expense of trees. Trees in the construction, as well as trees just to make space.

    Sports like car racing contribute to the carbon footprint. These athletes get paid to do a sport that glorifies the internal combustion engine. When income is involved (and lots of it) it’s easy to turn a blind eye.

    Formula One racing, for instance, is a billion-dollar-per-year business, climate change be damned.

    NASCAR is another racing entity that hovers around the billion-dollar mark as well, but the need for big engines and blinding speed will mean, unlike the circuit has done with the Black Lives Matters campaign, there won’t be too much change.

    Thank God for Formula E!

    What I’m saying is, we all have a part to play in spreading awareness about climate change. This includes how we contribute to it and ways to mitigate/adapt to it. But athletes are barely doing anything. Hardly ever utilizing their following.

    Why aren’t the voices from athletes posting information about climate change on social media platforms as big as the carbon footprint their sports leave?

    Let me make some suggestions that won’t hurt an athlete.

    There are fun and accurate infographics about climate change that are free to share. Infographics aren't overwhelming— this is good for short attention spans. They give relevant information quickly and clearly. The visuals help too.

    But before athletes can share information, they have to educate themselves. Luckily, they can ask around as I did.

    There are athletes who do their part and are providing an example for others to follow.

    Elaine Thompson was the ambassador for NuhDuttyUpJamaica and participated in the International Coastal Cleanup Day in 2017.

    It’s an eye-opening experience to see just how much waste is collected.

    Last but not least, and I don’t envisage this happening anytime soon, but athletes and the associations that fund events need to begin sanctioning countries that don’t take climate change seriously. Don’t compete in those countries. Let’s see the reformative power of sport at work.

    The lack of advocacy from athletes would suggest they aren’t impacted by climate change.

    Maybe their spacious houses have a pool and air conditioning to keep them cool. Perhaps they fly out to another country when the weather in their own takes a turn for the worse, who knows?

    What I do know is climate change affects everyone. We all need to speak up about it.

    Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

  • Forging a tradition of greatness - Veronica Campbell-Brown Forging a tradition of greatness - Veronica Campbell-Brown

    The 2004 Athens Olympics was my second watching on television but my first really understanding the stories behind the athletes who were representing my country.

    Like the athletes had worked for four years, so had I in trying to understand the ins and outs of the sport.

    I was only 14 years old, so there was still a lot to learn but I had by then learnt very well the name Veronica Campbell.

    By this time the precocious talent from Clarke’s Town in Trelawny had already won the IAAF World Youth 100 metres title in 1999 and the IAAF World Under-20 sprint double in 2000.

    Those achievements were sandwiched by a silver medal as part of Jamaica’s sprint relay team at the Sydney Olympics when she was only 18 years old.

    Injuries in 2001 and 2003 delayed her senior World Championship debut but between that, she won a silver medal over 100 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester England in 2002.

    The warning signs get louder

    As early as the indoor season of 2004 Veronica served warnings she would be a major force on the global scene even with a potentially long collegiate season for the University of Arkansas in prospect. 

    She won the NCAA Indoor title over 200 metres, speeding to 22.43 seconds, and sending a strong signal to her competitors.

    After a string of quality performances indoors and out, the former Barton County Community College athlete chose to forego the NCAA Outdoor Division One Championships to focus on her Olympic quest.

    It was a master move by Campbell and her team as she took the professional route.    

    I remember a particular race at the Weltklasse Golden League in Zurich, Switzerland. It was a stacked 100 metres field with Veronica Campbell among the principals.

    Before the race, renowned commentator Stuart Storey said he thought the new Jamaican star could “win the Olympic title”.

    Campbell finished fourth on that day, beaten by France’s Christine Aaron, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas and her Jamaican compatriot Aleen Bailey.

    Storey then explained that Veronica was much better at 200 metres and that is where he favoured her for Olympic Gold.

    He was right.

    Around my community I listened to pot covers beating, doors and walls knocking, jumping as Veronica became the first Caribbean woman to win either a 100 or 200 Gold at the Olympic Games.

    I have watched that race dozens of times since, whether it be to the stunning Caribbean voice that is Lance Whittaker or NBC’s Carol Lewis exclaiming Veronica’s devastating curve running.

    For Jamaicans, the moment was massive.

    The cycle of Jamaicans like Merlene Ottey, Grace Jackson and Juliet Cuthbert playing second fiddle to American and European sprinters had been broken.

    The Caribbean, Jamaica had its Golden queen.

    She also anchored the sprint relay team to Gold which meant she was involved in three of Jamaica’s five medals, having taken bronze in the 100 metres.

    With the subsequent success that Jamaica has had, led by the legendary Usain Bolt and including women like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Elaine Thompson or the unforgettable work done by Merlene Ottey before them, it might be easy, especially for the new generation of athletics fans to miss the tremendous contribution of Veronica.

    But she is truly among the greatest we have ever seen.

    Will to excel on show

    Her 2008 successful Olympic title defence was special, but it was her performance at the Jamaican Championships that year that will forever be etched in my mind.

    Now bearing the name Campbell-Brown after her marriage to fellow Jamaican sprinter Omar Brown, she entered the Jamaican Olympic trials as the favourite for the sprint double but the world was shaken when she only placed fourth in the 100 metres despite a super-fast 10.88-second clocking.

    A day later, she had to return for the 200 metres. Her Olympic aspirations hinged on that one race.

    She also had to take on the three women who beat her in the 100: Kerron Stewart, Shelly-Ann Fraser and Sherone Simpson.

    She did more than take them on, she beat them convincingly, clocking, still the fastest ever 200 time on Jamaican soil, 21.94 seconds.

    Maybe that singular focus helped her to defend her title in Beijing and become only the second woman to defend the Olympic half-lap title.

    As it stands, we will never know.

    What we do know is that she produced another scintillating curve run and took Gold in a lifetime best, 21.74 seconds.

    Veronica Campbell-Brown or VCB as she is now affectionately called has won eight global titles across World Championships, indoors and out and the Olympic Games.

    She has a further 10 silver and 3 bronze medals, not counting her multiple global medals at the Youth and Junior levels.

    She has always had a shy demeanour, but her desire to be the best has never been in question.

    Outside of that tremendous run at the Jamaican Championship in 2008, VCB’s last global individual medal is also one that sticks to the memory.

    In 2015 she was having a less-than-impressive year by her lofty standards.

    She placed fourth in the 100 metres at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

    In the 200 metres, she squeezed into the final as a fastest loser, almost labouring to 22.47 seconds.

    It was only the sixth-fastest going into the championship race but importantly, her fastest time since the London 2012 Olympics.

    After that semi-final, it felt as if Veronica had long past her best or anywhere close to it.

    One last great run

    But she had, what one might describe as one last great run, and on that night in Beijing she produced it.

    From lane two, she powered around the bend like the Veronica of old. Her knocked knees, a glorious reminder of her greatest days.

    The curve was vintage VCB as she inched clear of favourites Daphne Schippers of the Netherlands and Elaine Thompson, who was at the time Jamaica’s newest female sprinting sensation.

    The old Veronica might have taken them to the line and snatched Gold, but not on that night in Beijing.

    She could no longer hold her speed through 200 metres but still, it was one of her great runs as she crossed the line third in 21.97 seconds.

    It was the first time she had broken 22 seconds since the 2010 season and she hasn’t done it since, more sharp reminders of what a miracle run it was.

    It might do an injustice to her amazing legacy to speak much about her injury-plagued years beyond 2015.

    In any case, there might be more to come as she hopes to qualify for a sixth Olympics come the rescheduled Games in Tokyo 2021.

    But if Veronica never steps foot on a track again, her legacy will be sealed.

    When she defended her Olympic title in 2008, a local TV reporter, Damion Gordon wrote, “Like wine to a party, Veronica Campbell-Brown is synonymous with athletics greatness.”

    That, my friend, is how VCB should be remembered and spoken of – because she is now and always will be athletics greatness.

     

    Ricardo Chambers has done Commentary on international track and field, cricket and Netball since 2010. He has also done local football commentary. For feedback you can email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • JOA lauds ANOC decision to financially support Olympic committees JOA lauds ANOC decision to financially support Olympic committees

    The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) has come out in support of the decision of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) to provide additional funding to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in facilitating their preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games that were postponed to next year because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

    Two hundred and six national Olympic committees worldwide stand to benefit from the initiative that is expected to be managed through the five Continental Associations and ANOC, with the assistance of Olympic Solidarity.

    ANOC has assured National Olympic Committees that it stands in solidarity with them in recognising the adverse financial implications triggered by the pandemic, and in safeguarding the welfare of athletes and all stakeholders.

     "It is a decision that signals empathetic understanding. It is a confidence vote in the ability and capacity of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to repurpose plans, goals and objectives. But more importantly, it is an act of humanity and integrity and a demonstration of the Olympic spirit," said JOA President Christopher Samuda.

    The decision was made in the wake of a conference involving ANOC President, Robin Mitchell, ANOC Secretary General Gunilla Lindberg, ANOC executives and Olympic Solidarity Director James MacLeod, and will provide support on a case-by-case basis to be determined by governing criteria.

    "This is sport responding dynamically and in a practical way without self-serving interests but with sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of stakeholders who are facing the challenges of the current times but who, despite the crisis, have the conviction to stay in the game, to play the game and to transform the game for this and the next generations of sportsmen and sportswomen," Samuda said.

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