TOKYO • Gymnasts are used to having pressure on their shoulders but the athletes heading to Tokyo for next month’s special meet might feel they are carrying an Olympian burden.
The meet will feature gymnasts from Japan, the United States, China and Russia, and marks the first international event to be held at a Tokyo Olympic venue since the Games were postponed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For Tokyo, it is a major test of the city’s ability to hold an international sporting event amid the crisis.
For the six American gymnasts who have elected to compete, it is a chance to be a trailblazer.
“This opportunity is huge for any athlete, not just gymnasts,” Yul Moldauer, a bronze medallist at the 2017 World Championships, told Reuters from his home in Colorado.
“We are in a weird time for sporting events and so this is our chance to really go out there and kind of make things feel normal again.
“We get to go out there and compete, with everything running smoothly, other countries, other competitors, (and) other athletes will be like, ‘Wow, they have created a way, it is safe’.”
With the pandemic still raging, the event will not be run exactly as it would have been before the health crisis.
“There are procedures we will have to follow but that is just life right now,” Moldauer, 24, added. “You have to knock down the doors and not let anything get in your way, just take it on, accept it and prove to everyone that it is going to be okay.”
All four nations were invited to send up to eight gymnasts but the US are sending a smaller delegation via a chartered flight as only six felt confident in making the trip.
The one-day meet will take place on Nov 8 at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, which will host handball at next year’s Games, and will be attended by 2,000 spectators.
Fans allowed for the special gymnastics meet in Tokyo on Nov 8.
Foreign athletes are due to arrive in Tokyo four days before the event and will not have to go through the usual two-week quarantine period demanded of international visitors. However, they will be quarantined for two weeks in their own country before leaving for Japan and will undergo regular Covid-19 testing in the build-up to the meet. While in Tokyo, their movements will be limited to the gymnasium and the team hotel.
International Gymnastics Federation president Morinari Watanabe said: “I feel the greatest pressure ever at this event in my life. We want to open the door to Tokyo 2020.”