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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Uncertainty of #Tokyo2021 reminds Meyer of Barcelona '92 as she advises athletes to stay focused

With less than two months to go before the Olympic Games officially kickoff in Tokyo, there are still calls for the global sporting event to be called off as the Covid19 pandemic continues. While the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) insist that they have been assured of athletes' safety by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the uncertainty is reminiscent of Barcelona 1992 when Team SA's participation was only confirmed at the eleventh hour.

Elana Meyer who went on to silver in the 10 000m at those games in Spain, admits that preparing for #Tokyo2021 is difficult for athletes and reminds her of her debut Olympics almost 30 years ago. "It was tough. There was a lot of uncertainty around then. Preparing for '92 was very similar to now, it was a rollercoaster ride. I really feel for the athletes," she told #TheTopRunner during a telephonic interview.

Meyer in action in the women's marathon at Atlanta '96. Meyer won silver in the 10 000m in Barcelona four years earlier. Photo Credit: Endurocad.

But the former world record holder refused to distracted by the political wrangling at the time. While some called for South Africa's continued exclusion from The Games until after the seminal 1994 elections, others insisted that Apartheid had ended with Nelson Mandela's release from prison and the unbanning of political parties such as the African National Congress in 1990 two years earlier which cleared the way for SA to return to international sporting competition.

Staying focussed is her advice to the class of 2021 if they want to replicate her success. "You can't be sidetracked," she warns. "You just need to stick to your training whether there is a storm or not. It does need mental toughness from the athletes," says Meyer.

SASCOC President Barry Hendricks says the Olympics are going ahead and South African athletes are getting vaccinated. Photo Credit: SASCOC.

Meanwhile SASCOC President Barry Hendricks has assured the South African public that athletes will be well taken care of in Japan. Speaking after the naming of the Olympic team, Hendricks told a virtual media conference that they are working through the IOC who are working closely with the Japanese government to ensure the safety of all South Africans who will travel to The Land of The Rising Sun.

"SACOC follows a simple process and a simple resolution which is that those who qualify will go. To date the IOC has said one thing; that the games are going ahead. And they have said if they must apply very stringent then they will rather do that. No site-seeing, no restaurants. The protocols are already stringent and the IOC is working daily with the Japanese government and city of Tokyo to make sure all protocols are in place and make sure we observe them," he said.

Hendricks also revealed that the process of vaccinating athletes is well underway. "We are using the Johnson and Johnson single dose. Not only athletes but all team members and everyone that is accredited to go will be vaccinated. We thank the Department of Health and the Department of Sport for the professional manner in which everything is happening. I’ve done my shot as well as the IOC members. These vaccines are provided free of charge by the IOC and do not impact on the government rollout plan," he concluded.

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