eam GB Olympic hopefuls today told how they are determined to do their country proud at the Games – if they go ahead.
Uncertainty remains over whether the Olympics will take place as planned in Tokyo in July, as Japan battles a resurgence in coronavirus infections and opinion polls show the majority of its public is opposed to them amid the pandemic.
But athletes remained positive as they hailed “a big moment” in their countdown to the delayed Games with the unveiling today of the team’s kit, saying the competition now feels “more real than ever”.
Gymnast Max Whitlock, cycling star Laura Kenny, and diver Tom Daley were among those to pose in the kit created by adidas. ParalympicsGB stars including sprinter Jonnie Peacock also starred in the launch.
London-based 400m sprinter Laviai Nielsen, 25, spoke of her pride as she hopes to compete in her first Games. She said: “I think standing on the start line will be a very emotional moment.”
The sprinter, whose twin sister Lina competes in the 400m hurdles, said theteam felt they were now “on the home straight”.
“Looking ahead to Tokyo, which is not far away now, it feels like we are almost there which feels incredible. Everything feels a lot more certain.”
Rower Tom George, 26, said: “I put the t-shirt on and I was like: ‘Wow. Ok. We are almost in touching distance now.’ There is a lot of work to do between now and then, but we are getting pretty close. It was the first moment where I thought: ‘I am going to go to an Olympic Games.’”
Four-time Olympic gold cycling star Kenny, 29, said: “We actually did the photoshoot for the kit back in March last year before we went into lockdown. I didn’t even really know what covid was at the time. I will never take for granted pulling on an Olympic kit. It feels and looks amazing. I feel so privileged to be able to wear it.”
Speaking at the launch, double Olympic champion Whitlock, 28, from Hertfordshire, said: “It feels amazing. For any athlete this is a big, big moment.”
The Olympics are set to be held from July 23 to August 8, following a year delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Paralympics are scheduled to take place from August 24 to September 5.
However, there is still a chance the Games will not be held. Earlier this week, reports from Japan suggested its government is considering extending the country’s strict Covid restrictions beyond May 11 as planned as the country battles a surge in cases. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed on Wednesday the seven-day infection rate average in the city is up 5.3 percent from the previous seven days.
Meanwhile, Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of the incumbent Liberal Democratic Party told Japan’s TBS TV last month the games “must be definitely cancelled” if it seems “impossible” to move forward with them.
But the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to the games and said “there is no plan B” if they’re cancelled – meaning the games would not be held at all.
“We’re not thinking of cancelling the Olympics,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said, speaking on behalf of the organising committee last month.
Currently, overseas visitors have been barred from watching the games. Domestic fans may also be banned, depending on the developing situation.
Speaking about the uncertainty surrounding the games, Mitchell added: “We have had to temper it because of the uncertainty and not get carried away with the excitement. Maybe it is a bit now, as we get closer, we are letting ourselves feel more of that buzz. And that is a nice feeling. This is our opportunity to live out our dreams.”
Jordanne Whiley, 28, the bronze medal Paralympic tennis player, said: “I am excited to get competing. But it is still the unknown. A lot of things haven’t been confirmed.”