(Australian Associated Press)
Australian athletes selected for the Olympics have been assured they won’t have to re-qualify for the postponed Games next year.
A total of 43 athletes have been formally selected, with others already meeting qualifying criteria for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, now postponed until next year amid the coronavirus pandemic
Asked if the qualified athletes were guaranteed a place on the team in 2021, Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll said “That is our understanding at this time.”
Questioned about what would happen if an individual performed better in an event than someone who had already qualified over the next 12 months, Carroll said: “You’ve got to remember the way you get to an Olympic Games is through specific qualifications.
“The events that have been held for these qualifications are done.”
Carroll acknowledged there could be an issue trying to ensure selected athletes were still at the top of their game come next year.
“Therein lies the challenge for the high performance structures in Australia and our sports to work with the athletes to meet those challenges,” Carroll said.
“The message to the athletes who have qualified is keep training, keep working hard at the moment and this crisis will pass.
“The same thing for those athletes who are yet to qualify. Once this crisis passes, it’s a great opportunity.”
Carroll said a wellbeing service would be launched next week to enable the athletes to keep their spirits up.
He said the AOC welcomed the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Japanese government and Olympic organisers to move the Games back a year.
“It’s a challenging moment in history, tragic times globally, but athletes in sports now have absolute clarity that enables them to focus on a Games in 2021,” Carroll said.
“The AOC recognises the Games organisers have an enormous task ahead of them and there’s no doubt Japan will put on the greatest Olympic Games ever and provide an opportunity for the world to reconnect in a spirit of unity and hope.”
While some sports have flagged their intention to ask the federal government for financial support because of postponements forced by the coronavirus pandemic, Carroll stressed the AOC wouldn’t be following suit despite now having a longer lead-up to the Games.
“The Australian Olympic Committee takes no government funding, we don’t look for it or take it,” Carroll said.
“So we will work with our partners, we will roll our sponsors over for another year.
“They are are standing by us which is great, so the Australian Olympic Committee will adjust how we manage our budgets to ensure that we still send the Australian Olympic team to the Games best prepared and ready to do their job.”
He said it was still intended to send Australia’s largest ever team to an offshore Olympics, with a team possibly close to 500.