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Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls react to Canada pulling out of the 2020 Games

Cyclists reflect on the national committees' decision

On Sunday, March 23, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) announced they will not send any Canadian teams to the Olympic or Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020.

The announcement comes after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated on March 22 that they would make a decision on the future of the 2020 Games mid-April. The COC and CPC urged the IOC to accelerate its decision-making regarding a possible postponement.

For Olympic hopeful cyclists, the COC’s decision weighs heavily, but most are in agreement that it was the right thing to do.

Catharine Pendrel

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The work you put in is never wasted, but sometimes it needs another time to shine. Last night the Canadian Olympic Committee made the decision that Canada would not compete at the 2020 Olympics, asking the IOC that it be moved to 2021. I respect their leadership during this time where the world is in crisis, uncertainty is high and we have more pressing concerns. When we choose to devote ourselves to a goal there is never any certainty that we will be successful, but we work hard regardless because that is the way we want to live our lives. Keep your eyes up and your actions focused on moving closer to your goals, whatever they are, because that work will be given its time to shine. @teamcanada ?London 2012–>Rio 2016

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Three time Olympian and 2016 bronze medallist Catharine Pendrel had a philosophical take on the COC’s decision.

“The work you put in is never wasted,” she said in a Facebook post, “but sometimes it needs another time to shine.”

“I respect the COC’s leadership during this time where the world is in crisis,” says Pendrel. “Uncertainty is high and we have more pressing concerns. When we choose to devote ourselves to a goal there is never any certainty that we will be successful, but we work hard regardless because that is the way we want to live our lives.”

James Palmer

25-year-old James Palmer was set to represent Canada in BMX at the Olympics this summer and was shocked to hear Sunday’s news. “After taking some time to let it all sink in and read up on the decision, I do believe it’s the right one for the health and safety of us athletes,” he says. “As we’ve seen recently now, other nationals have followed in and done the same now, so I hope the IOC makes the call and postpones the games until next year and we still have the opportunity compete and represent our Country!”

Tristen Chernove

Tristen Chernove. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Tristen Chernove, who earned a medal of each colour at the 2016 Paralympic Games, is thankful Canada is making an expedient decision, which he says is paving the way for other nations to make the same ethical choice for the good of our global community.

“I’m proud to see Canada take a strong, responsible and well considered decision on this,” he says. “At this moment, each and every one of us doing all we can to minimize the impact and spread of this virus is priority one.”

“I’m on the Athletes Council for Cycling Canada and to be truthful, as disappointing as this is from many perspectives, it is also an ideal opportunity for the Olympic/Paralympic values of human excellence, a world united and the advancement of healthy global societies to be forefront,” says Chernove. “The Olympics/Paralympics are about much more than sport. It’s about every one of us being the best we can be, breaking barriers and borders and caring for one another.”

Leah Kirchmann and Alison Jackson

In an Instagram livestream this morning, road cyclists Leah Kirchmann and Alison Jackson were asked their thoughts on Canada pulling out of the 2020 Olympics.

“For the athletes it’s hugely disappointing,” said Krichmann. “It is a huge goal for so many people, but we’re facing a big challenge right now. The whole world is facing a challenge and it’s not responsible to hold the olympics this year. It poses a huge risk to athletes and to public health.”

Jackson was in agreement, “The whole premise of the olympics is equality, but right now some athletes aren’t able to train at all,” she said, referencing those under quarantine or athletes such as synchronized swimmers, who can’t even access public pools.

Michael Foley

Michael Foley, who is currently trying to safely get back to Ontario from Victoria, BC, thinks that the COC has made a smart, but also strategic decision. He says that if the games do go ahead as planned, he will definitely feel a bit robbed, but, “in the grand scheme of things, the Olympics were just the destination, and nobody can take away that journey.”

“I’ve really been enjoying my push towards the games,” he says. “I have amazing teammates and a really understanding coach, so another year of focusing on the Olympics, although definitely presenting some new challenges, would still be something I could enjoy, and grow from.”

Jasmin Glaesser

Jasmin Glaesser
Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Jasmin Glaesser, two-time Olympic bronze medalist, is happy the COC has given her a conclusive answer in an uncertain time.

“I am proud that the COC took the lead in making a decision on our participation at Tokyo 2020,” she says. “At a time filled with so many uncertainties, it’s a relief to have a definite answer to a question that as athletes we have been asking ourselves for several weeks. It allows us now, for the time being, to focus on doing our part in helping to protect our communities. It gives us the opportunity to put a plan together to compete at a future Olympics, whether in 2021 or beyond, on our own terms.”

Haley Smith

Haley Smith
Haley Smith. Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Canadian mountain biker Haley Smith, feels that it is the right decision to not send athletes to Tokyo if the Games are to proceed as planned in July 2020.

“For so many reasons, including health, safety, mental wellness, ethical/fair play and the ability to train, this stance is the only viable way forward,” she says. “While it’s tough to swallow, I’m happy that Canada made the hard decision and now other nations are following suit.” 

“It’s very hard to have clear thoughts and feelings on all of this because there is still so much uncertainty. In my experience, clear feelings often don’t surface until reality is established, and at best right now we’re living in a state of speculation. This makes anxiety levels climb and, sure, makes motivation a little harder to come by. But all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and do what’s right at this exact moment. At the end of the day, the pandemic is a lot larger than sport. My primary responsibility right now is to be a conscientious citizen and do my part to flatten the curve. I’ll still be training and dreaming, but the pandemic has provided a whole lot of perspective that I didn’t have before.”

Allison Beveridge

“I think the COC made the call that was in the best interest of the athletes and the country. We were fortunate to be one of the sports that could still train outside, but preparations were being affected with gym access and such, rightfully so, given the priority and the severity of COVID-19. It’s definitely hard to see and hear though, we were in the final push and mentally more than anything it has been a definite curveball. I think at this point we’re all hoping for an official delay from the IOC, likely to summer 2021, so we can start planning and preparing, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions for both us as individuals and Cycling Canada that we’ll have to begin to work through.

We have been back training after a break post worlds and were doing our best to prepare as the Games were going ahead, but after hearing the news yesterday we are taking a few days to reset, more so mentally than physically and actually went for a long run today – might regret that tomorrow! I think we have some unfinished business to see this all through to the Games whenever they go.

I think the whole world just seems a bit chaotic at the moment and this is just one point to us. However, at the end of the day, both my sisters work in hospitals in the health care sector as a resident surgeon and acute care dietitian and if I ever need some perspective I just chat to them. At the end of the day I care more than anything to see them, and of course everyone else, safe and the end of this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

Peter Disera
Peter Disera took the holeshot and never looked back.

Peter Disera

“I am obviously a little emotional as I come to terms with the gravity of the situation. I believe that the decision not to send Canadian athletes to the Olympic Games unless they’re postponed was the right call. It was crazy to hear Team Canada’s announcement yesterday followed so quickly by the IOC’s response today. With how quickly things are unfolding, I am taking things day by day and trying to not get caught up too much in the ups and downs.

For now, the three-time elite XCO national champion is refocusing and adjusting his training, and trying to get home to Ontario. As for the future, I can’t see past the end of this month. With domestic travel dwindling down to bare essentials, I may end up stuck in BC for a while, but there are worse places to be stuck! There’s a great deal of decision fatigue surrounding the volatility of the situation and what I should do.

“With no racing on the horizon, I’ll be focusing on base training for the foreseeable future. Luckily, here in Victoria, we are still able to train outdoors. Fingers crossed that people start to take social distancing and avoiding group activities more seriously, otherwise we’ll probably be facing a more complete lockdown. Hopefully we get a small World Cup season in the late summer / fall. In the meantime, I’ll use this opportunity to ride my bike, get better at small things and set some short-term goals to remain focused.”