Welcome to The New Normal: life in the time of coronavirus, where we'll be sharing stories and updates about how athletes are adjusting to and coping with the spread of COVID-19. We'll be providing updates regularly and daily and encourage athletes to get in touch so we can share their stories, too.
Updates by Jon Mulkeen and Bob Ramsak
Wednesday 25 March
Brazier: Disappointed, but eager to look ahead
20:15 - 25 March
Like most athletes, world 800m champion Donavan Brazier was disappointed that his Olympic ambitions will be postponed, but knows that the decision to move the Olympics back a year was for the best.
Speaking to MLive.com, Brazier said:
“I’m going to be turning 23 this year, so this dream is 23 years in the making,” Brazier said. “In the whole grand scheme of things, I have been waiting for something for 23 years, I think I can wait another year, especially when something as unprecedented as this is going on. The Olympics are on the backburner of everybody’s minds, including the athletes who are participating.
“Yeah, it is a little bit of a disappointment that they are going to postpone them for a whole year. But at the end of the day, there are going to be more people worse off than just some runners and athletes. I’m still grateful that they will have them in 2021. It messes up the training cycle a little bit, but there are a lot worse things that could be going on for the athletes.”
And, he concludes:
“Whenever the athletes do come back, I think everyone will be more grateful to run. That is something special to look forward to.”
Croatian athletes put out appeal for Zagreb earthquake relief
19:20 - 25 March
There is no good time for a natural disaster to hit, but this moment, when countries around the world are trying to contain an epidemic, is an especially bad one.
The Croatian capital Zagreb sustained extensive damage when an 5.4 earthquake rocked the city early Sunday morning, forcing people out of their homes when they were under orders to stay in them.
Two-time world high jump champion Blanka Vlasic is spearheading Athletes for Zagreb, a relief effort to help raise money to offset some of the damages the city and its residents have been forced to deal with at the most inopportune time.
Van Niekerk: Tokyo postponement means 'more time to prepare and more time to work'
18:30 - 25 March
One of the more intriguing storylines that was expected to emerge from this year's Olympic Games was the return of defending 400m champion Wayde Van Niekerk.
The 27-year-old South African provided one of the Rio Games' most iconic moments when he broke the world record with a stunning 43.03 performance. But a knee injury sustained during a friendly rugby game in late 2017 has mostly sidelined Van Niekerk since. Yesterday's postponement will push his delay back even further.
Speaking to Reuters, Van Niekerk said:
“I’m trying to see the positive in it,” Van Niekerk was quoted by South Africa’s Daily Maverick on Wednesday.
“I view it as more time to prepare, more time to work and more time to invest in my career. Tokyo is just another stepping stone to the entire legacy that I want to leave behind.”
Had the Games gone ahead as scheduled in July, Van Niekerk would have had few opportunities to test his knee and build up speed but he can now be more cautious in his return.
“This gives me more time to work and strengthen myself to be in even better shape for the Olympic Games."
Cheptegei on Olympic postponement: 'Safety is paramount'
15:25 - 25 March
Speaking with BBC Africa, Uganda's 10,000m world champion Joshua Cheptegei said:
"I know how athletes feel, it is sad but safety is paramount."
"I would say: what is fame, what is money without health? What is it?
"What is the essence of existence when you are not healthy? Life is more important."
Irish sprinter Healy: 'You're either going to waste this time or you're going to use it and come out the other end better'
12:50 - 25 March
Those words could apply how we approach just about any field or occupation these days. In this case, they came from Irish sprinter Phil Healy who relocated her training base to the Irish seaside village of Curracloe before the spate of recent lockdowns kicked in. She made sure she'd be prepared to continue training in relative seclusion even before those orders were decreed.
"You're either going to waste this time now or you're going to use it and come out the other end better," says Healy. "Nothing is ever going to be smooth so you adapt. I'm not going to be one (who asks), 'What am I training for?' It's an opportunity to grow. If you show that weakness you're letting other people get the upper hand."
Healy is well used to uncertainty, which comes with the territory of being an elite athlete. Last year her season was turned on its head in an instant when she broke her foot in a freak accident while warm-weather training in Malta. It was the same deal then as it is now: adjust, move on, do what you can with whatever you have.
More in Ireland's Independent.
With Olympic postponement, Kinsey faces difficult decision
10:45 - 25 March
Taking to Instagram yesterday after the announcement that the 2020 Olympic Games will be postponed, Swedish high jumper Erika Kinsey shared the difficult decision that she, and many female athletes, will now be forced to make.
Allyson Felix: 'Here's why I won't lose hope'.
09:30 - 25 March
US sprint legend Allyson Felix, who has collected six gold and three silver in four Olympic Games, was gunning for a fifth Olympic appearance this summer. That won't come to pass this year, but that doesn't mean her ambitions have come to an end.
In a deeply personal post published in Time, Felix writes:
I’m asked a lot what makes me want to continue on. It’s not gold medals or world records. I’ve woken up each and every morning for the past 6,055 days wanting to send a message of hope. Hope that you can accomplish your dreams, hope that you can make it through your deepest disappointment, hope that you can do things with integrity, hope that you can overcome — no matter what you are faced with.
Today is no different. Today, I’m 34 years old, and I am standing here with a message of hope. Right now things are uncertain, we are facing tremendous challenges and loss of an unthinkable proportion. But as a global community we have to commit to waking up tomorrow morning and finding a new way to relentlessly pursue our audacious dreams.
Tuesday 24 March
Peters: 'Don't let it get you down; keep going'
23:15 - 24 March
Mary Peters knows a thing or two about being patient.
The British all-rounder enjoyed a long career, making her international debut at the age of 19. Six years later, she finished fourth in the pentathlon at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Having finished ninth at the 1968 Games, Peters made her third Olympic appearance in 1972 at the age of 33 and beat home favourite Heide Rosendahl to take gold.
In a video posted to Twitter, Peters offered a message of support for athletes who had been hoping to compete in Tokyo this year.
"It's devastating news for all Olympians and Paralympians," she said. "But there'll be another chance. Don't let it get you down. Keep going, and maybe you'll do even better than you anticipated.
"Go and enjoy yourself, train hard, and the Olympics will happen in Tokyo."
We are devastated for those athletes effected by the postponed #TokyoOlympics stay strong and focused! @Olympics @BelTel_Sport @irishhockey @McClenaghanRhys @AthleticsNI @RowingIreland pic.twitter.com/uBFaXYvWlX— Mary Peters Trust (@MaryPetersTrust) March 24, 2020
Running - the outlet that unites us all during the coronavirus Crisis
22:30 - 24 March
Greek 10,000m record-holder Alexi Pappas is based in the USA for most of the year, but she recently headed to Patras in Greece for a training stint. Soon after, the country went into lock down.
Upon finding that their regular track facility was closed, Pappas and her coach headed to the Kalogria national forest instead.
As I began my run and marveled at the beauty around me, that familiar Zen-like feeling set in, the one that so many runners, novice or otherwise, know and love. With each breath and each step, the Grecian woods reminded me of the trails I grew up running on in the Bay Area—woody and moist and wet, like autumn, when your feet sink into mud speckled with pine needles and teeming with life. The strong scent of the forest, more than anything, invoked the feeling home.
Now more than ever, it seems that people are discovering that same feeling. Running is a healthy exercise in control during a time when control is hard to come by. Running is self-preservation; it’s putting willpower into practice.
World Athletics U20 Championships postponed
18:45 - 24 March
The World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi is the latest major athletics event to be postponed.
The championships was due to take place on 7-12 July, but the current global situation would have seriously compromised the event at this time as many countries are restricting international travel, invoking necessary quarantines and advising citizens and event organisers to avoid mass gatherings.
How athletes responded to the Olympic postponement
All in all a very wise decision to postpone the Olympics until 2021. I look forward to come back to Japan to defend my Olympic title next year and look forward to witness a wonderful event. I wish everybody good health in these challenging times.
World heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson:
Waited 8 years for this, what’s another 1 in the grand scheme of things? 😅📈💪🏽 As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news about the olympics being postponed until 2021, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone! Hope everyone keeps safe and stay indoors x pic.twitter.com/z0JlgV2efI— KJT (@JohnsonThompson) March 24, 2020
No problem, we can wait. Stay safe everyone.
Needless to say, I was really looking forward and my shape is good at the moment but for now we have to look at the bigger picture and do whatever it takes to beat the corona virus. Let's hope for the best and let's make sure we'll celebrate even harder in 2021!
Two-time world indoor 60m hurdles champion Lolo Jones:
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games postponed
15:25 - 24 March
The IOC and Japanese Government today confirmed that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be postponed.
In response to the announcement, World Athletics released the following statement:
World Athletics welcomes the decision of the IOC and the Japanese Government to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021. It is what athletes want and we believe this decision will give all athletes, technical officials and volunteers some respite and certainty in these unprecedented and uncertain times.
Athletics will continue to do whatever it can to preserve and create an outdoor season of one-day meetings in 2020, starting and ending later than usual, so athletes, when they are able and it is safe to, will have access to competitions in every region. This will help them benchmark their performances and adjust their training accordingly for an Olympic Games in 2021. In light of this announcement, we will also expedite our current review of the Olympic qualification system, in cooperation with the IOC, and release any changes to the process as soon as possible so athletes know where they stand.
World Athletics stands ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date for the Olympic Games in 2021 and has already been in discussion with the Organising Committee of the World Athletics Championships Oregon 21 regarding the possibility of moving the dates of this highly popular worldwide event. They have assured us that they will work with all of their partners and stakeholders to ensure that Oregon is able to host the World Athletics Championships on alternative dates, including dates in 2022.
The socially distant track meet
12:15 - 24 March
Just because everyone is having to keep socially distant, doesn't mean athletics competitions can't be held (virtually)...
Prompted by an Instagram post by Noor Abdellatif, athletes around the world have recorded clips of themselves competing in adapted versions of athletics events.
Here's a selection:
Locked down and lonely
10:30 - 24 March
With most countries either in lock down or following strict isolation guidelines, many athletes are spending more time at home with their loved ones.
But world indoor 60m hurdles champion Andrew Pozzi of Great Britain is now in lock down at his training base in Formia, Italy, and spends most of his time alone. Apart from one two-hour training session, the remaining 22 hours of his day is spent in his apartment, while his family and girlfriend, world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, are back in the UK.
View this post on Instagram
I am extremely fortunate that I'm one of very few people in the country able to still do their job. The Italian Olympic Committee have enabled a small number of athletes to continue training if they are working for the upcoming Olympic Games.
I get to spend a couple of hours a day training at my base in Formia - behind closed doors and under social distancing rules. It's very quiet at the centre now as most staff have also been ordered to stay at home. The atmosphere is very different, but I'm extremely grateful to be able to continue work and also have some time outside of the house.
Training aside I spend the other 22 hours of the day in my apartment where I live alone and remain isolated. The streets are entirely empty when I do leave the house and so far I stick to the routine of going to the supermarket once a week.
I only have the opportunity to see or speak to people physically for a couple of hours a day and during that time we're training incredibly intensively in a small group and respecting distance so it's a far cry from a normal social activity. It's often difficult when I return from training knowing that I won't have any in-person interaction for almost 24 hours, and if I have a rest day or two then it's considerably longer.
Monday 23 March
Clubs closed in Kenya
17:35 - 23 March
While certain areas of Asia and Europe have been hit hardest by COVID-19, the spread of the virus has also started across Africa.
View this post on Instagram
As such, government guidelines have been introduced in numerous African nations to try to stop the spread of the disease. But, as has been the case elsewhere in the world, the restrictions make training very difficult for elite athletes.
Bernard Ouma, coach of world 1500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot and 2017 world 1500m champion Elijah Manangoi, has been forced to close Rongai Athletics Club and the athletes have returned home.
“The pandemic is affecting all across the world and we stand with the victims of coronavirus and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones,” said Ouma.
“I appreciate the measures taken by the Kenyan federal and county governments to control an imminent spike of the coronavirus by giving directives to control social gathering and social distancing, and recommendation to regularly sanitise, and washing of hands.
“Closing athletics camps and clubs indefinitely was one of the recent measures. It is a dream of every athlete to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level like the Olympics. This requires adequate and uninterrupted preparation. Rongai Athletics Club, just like many other athletics clubs, is closed and athletes are left to train in isolation.
“As far as my training approach is concerned, this high level of training plan encompasses cohesiveness and team work, which is practically not possible in these circumstances. The coronavirus is locally stigmatised, having the athletes in constant fear and panic mode, completely hampering training. Who wants to turn up at the Olympics half prepared? Given the interruptions, many probable competitors who haven’t yet made the qualifying standards are now unlikely to achieve them.”
View this post on Instagram
Untied yet united
16:50 - 23 March
Prompted by an Instagram post from recreational runner Alessia Sergon, people from all over the world have been taking to social media to share pictures of their athletics shoes 'untied yet united' as a way of showing worldwide solidarity.
Since Sergon's initial post, many leading athletes have joined in, including French sprinter Christophe Lemaitre, US distance runners Deena Kastor and Diane Nukuri, British triple jumper Nathan Douglas, Italian shot putter Leonardo Fabbri, Irish steeplechaser Kerry O'Flaherty and Italian marathon runner Daniele Meucci.
Other runners and athletes have been getting creative with their #untiedyetunited posts:
View this post on Instagram
The athletes have spoken
13:55 - 23 March
In a recent survey conducted by the Athletics Association, 78% of responses from international track and field athletes said that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games should be postponed.
More than 4000 athletes from six continents participated in the poll. 87% said the coronavirus outbreak had adversely affected their training, and the average concern for their health and safety was 68, on a scale of 1 to 100, if the Games opened as planned on July 24.
"We are calling on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics," read the Athletics Association's statement, which was co-signed by world and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor and 2017 world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn.
"We're imploring the IOC to announce the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics much sooner than in four weeks' time.
"Athletes are risking their health as well as the health of their coaches and families, and indeed wider society, to continue to prepare for an Olympic Games that is likely to be postponed.
IOC Executive Board agrees to step up scenario-planning for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
09:00 - 23 March
The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee has announced that the IOC will step up its scenario-planning for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
"These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games," their statement read. "This step will allow better visibility of the rapidly changing development of the health situation around the world and in Japan. It will serve as the basis for the best decision in the interest of the athletes and everyone else involved.
"Further to the study of different scenarios, it would need the full commitment and cooperation of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities, and of all the International Federations and National Olympic Committees. It would also require commitment from, and collaboration with, the Rights-Holding Broadcasters and our TOP Partner sponsors, as part of their continued and valued support to the Olympic Movement, as well as cooperation from all the Games’ partners, suppliers and contractors."
World Athletics welcomes discussions with the IOC to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and wrote to the IOC earlier today to relay this feedback from its Area Presidents, Council and athletes. We stand ready to work with the IOC and all sport on an alternative date.
This morning, the local organising committee followed up with a statement:
In light of this situation, Tokyo 2020 held an urgent video conference with IOC President Bach last night, during which we agreed to proceed with detailed discussions of different scenarios, including postponement of the Games, in full coordination with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Government of Japan, relevant Japanese authorities, international sport federations and National Olympic Committees.
As the IOC has stated, due to the extreme complexity of the Games, a final decision has not been reached at this time, and discussions will be finalised within the next four weeks. Cancellation of the Tokyo 2020 Games is not on the agenda.
Our thoughts are with all those affected by this crisis, and we will continue to prioritise the safety of athletes, spectators and all other Games participants. As we closely monitor infection trends, we will dedicate ourselves to examining detailed plans for different scenarios, including opening the Games on 24 July, in accordance with the agreement reached yesterday with the IOC. We will continue to work closely with all relevant organisations in order to meet the expectations of the athletes who have been training day and night and the fans who have been looking forward to the Games for so long.