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Anna van der Breggen: Postponing the Olympic Games is a relief

Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen
Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen (Image credit: Getty Images)

Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen has expressed her relief after Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach agreed to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics until 2021.

The IOC made the announcement on Tuesday after weeks of doubt over whether the Games could take place as scheduled from July 24-August 9 amid health concerns and risk surrounding the coronavirus pandemic

"As long as it's not certain that the event will go off the calendar, you have to keep the Olympics in mind. That's why the clarity about it is kind of a relief. It didn't come out of the blue for anyone, I don't think," Van der Breggen said in a interview with the Dutch news outlet De Stentor.

"How can we let this sporting event go on while the world is fighting a virus, people are losing their livelihoods and others have to fear for the life of a family member?

"On the other hand, I also know – after a few visits to Japan – how important this event is for them. And that you don't take such a decision lightly after all those costs and hours."

Van der Breggen won the gold medal in the road race and took the bronze medal in the time trial at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, she has gone on to win the road race world title, five consecutive Flèche Wallonne titles, twice Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a second Giro Rosa title, and numerous other world-class achievements. 

She would have, again, been one of the favourites to take the start line at the Game, but she believes the event will do just as well next summer.

"No Olympics this year," she wrote on instagram. "Tricky because as athletes we worked and looked forward to this, but there is a bigger goal more important, namely trying to stay healthy and thinking about each other! Nothing is the way it was but we can make it beautiful again."

She went on to tell De Stentor that she would rather compete in an Olympic Games without the health concerns the world is facing. "If I could have chosen we would have ridden the Olympics next summer in a healthy world."

Due to public health concerns surrounding the spreading of the coronavirus, or Covid-19, many of the top-level one-day races from March through June were either cancelled or postponed. These events include events across China, Italy, Belgium and Netherlands: Tour of Chongming Island, Strade Bianche, Bevrijdingsronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, the Ardennes Classics and the Women's Tour.

She said the postponement of the Olympic Games is also important to allow for a fair selection process for athletes, and to give athletes a chance to prepare properly for the event during a typical racing and training programme. Currently, there is no racing and many athletes are following self-distancing recommendations and staying at home to train indoors to help stop the spreading of the virus.

She said the postponement on the Olympic Games is also important to allow for a fair selection process for athletes, and to give athletes a chance to prepare properly for the event during a typical racing and training programme. Currently, there is no racing and many athletes are following self-distancing recommendations and staying at home to train indoors to help stop the spreading of the virus.

"After all, you live from goal to goal," Van der Breggen said. "No matter what, a fair selection could not be applied in this way. Nobody was able to show themselves in the spring. I have the hope that we can race again and hope to make autumn another goal. It's far away, but if you look at the course of the disease in China, it may still be possible."