Coronavirus will not deter
athletes, says hockey champion Dwyer
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[March 20, 2020]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The coronavirus
pandemic has disrupted Olympic qualifying and put the whole Games in
doubt but most athletes would be prepared to make big compromises to
compete at Tokyo, Australia's field hockey gold medalist Jamie Dwyer
has told Reuters.
The outbreak has infected over 242,000 people and killed nearly
10,000, bringing global sport to a virtual standstill and prompting
calls for the July 24-Aug. 9 Olympics to be canceled or postponed.
Four-times Olympian Dwyer, however, said denying athletes the chance
to compete at the Games was a decision that should not be taken
"The Olympics arenít until the end of July, so thereís still a long
time to go before we get to cancelling or making plan B," the
41-year-old Queenslander said in an interview.
"Itís every four years. Itís not like we get this shot every year or
A member of the Athletes' Commission of the Australian Olympic
Committee, Dwyer says he has not heard concerns about the
coronavirus from any aspiring Olympians Down Under.
Most would gladly sign up for Tokyo, he added, even if spectators
were banned or some nations were blocked from participating due to
"If I had a choice between playing at the Olympics with no crowd or
not going at all, Iíd take no crowds any day," said Dwyer, who won
men's hockey gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics and bronze medals at
Beijing in 2008 and London four years later.
He also competed at the 2016 Games in Rio.
"I know in Australia, the majority would take that option, too.
"Iím 100% sure, whether youíre a hockey player a swimmer or
whatever, youíd take that opportunity to go.
ďHow big are the compromises? If one country canít come, or even 10
countries canít come, itís a shame but itís not the end of the
"If 50% canít come, well, yeah, youíve probably got a bit of a
The immediate problem facing organizers is qualifying, with athletes
struggling to train, travel or compete.
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Jamie Dwyer (AUS) of Australia competes. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Tokyo is set to host some 11,000 athletes and almost 60% have
already earned their spot. The remainder will clinch their places
through modified qualifiers or previous performances based on
"Athletes do tend to roll with the punches, but I think qualifiers
are the biggest issue -- how are they going to qualify over the next
three months?" said Dwyer.
"All of these events are getting shut down.
"The lack of competition is quite difficult and a distraction but
itís the same for every country at the moment."
In his AOC capacity, Dwyer said he would support any athlete who
decided to skip the Games for health concerns but would encourage
them not to rush into such a decision.
"If they were that scared and didnít want to go, thatís up to the
athlete. But you donít want to make that (decision) now," he said.
"You want to make that decision a couple of days before the team
heads off to the Olympics if you decide youíre not going to go."
Running a hockey equipment company under his "JDH" brand, Dwyer is
seeing first-hand how the coronavirus is affecting the sports
business, with major competitions postponed or scrapped as part of
Cancelling the Olympics would mean another economic hit for an
industry already suffering.
"What about the thousands of jobs, the billions of dollars spent?"
"I know retailers all round the world are really hurting and the
small businesses, like myself.
"Itís pretty tough I guess when thereís no sport."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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