In January 2020 World and European BMX Freestyle Champion Anthony Jeanjean was preparing to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. Read here his thoughts about the postponement of the games.
by DANNY BURROW
The Olympic Games were not to be
In January 2020 World and European BMX Freestyle Champion Anthony Jeanjean was preparing to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. It would be the maiden appearance of his discipline at the Games and Anthony was amped to have qualified and that sport would get the exposure it deserved: “Our sport is still little known and I think that with events like the Olympic Games, which reach people all over the world, it will evolve and more young people will start BMX.”
But the Games were not to be. On March 6, with a quarter of the world’s population in quarantine, the IOC postponed the Tokyo Games for the first time in its 124-year history. Shinzo Abe, the PM of the host nation, promised that they would take place “no later than next summer” and athlete’s the world over breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Having watched the level playing field of the Games evaporate under lockdown and through and illnesses the postponement was long overdue and finally athletes like Anthony take their foot off the gas, settle into lockdown and recalibrate their sights on summer 2021.
TSG caught up with Anthony, at home in France, and asked him about the postponement of the Tokyo Games, how it had affected his plans and aspirations and how he was staying positive in lockdown.
How do you feel about the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021?
The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is very sad because the athletes have been waiting for the event and preparing for it. It has impacts us a lot but I must look at things in a positive light: I will be able to work hard for the next year and get ready for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.
With the disruption to training and qualification process it must have come as a relief to finally have a clear decision made to postponement of the Olympics?
Obviously, this situation has affected our training and preparation greatly but the decision to postpone the Olympic Games to 2021 was inevitable. Really, we were waiting for the decision so that we could recalibrate our training properly.
How had Coronavirus affected your training and qualification schedule before the postponement?
It had a big impact and now I cannot ride as the BMX parks are closed and we cannot train. I am continuing my physical preparation at home because it is important to stay in shape so I am ready to ride at the highest level once all this is over. For the Olympic qualification, all the qualifying competitions were postponed or cancelled, so the date of the end of the qualifying period might also been postponed to 2021. This is so that the countries that had as yet not qualified can try to qualify.
Would it have been inappropriate, in your opinion, for the Games to proceed as planned? And had they gone ahead would you have had reservations about taking part?
Indeed, given the situation the main priority has to be health of the sportsmen, the staff and the public. And, at the moment, it is also the health of the whole world that we need to worry about. I think given the world situation, it is better that the Olympic Games takes place in 2021.
One option being discussed before postponement was to hold the Games without spectators. The charged atmosphere of a packed stadium must be a huge incentive to perform up to and beyond your limits: Would you agree?
Yes, when there are spectators the atmosphere pushes us to excel and exceed our limits. Without spectators the events are not the same. This was the first time that BMX Freestyle will be represented at the Olympic Games and it is a historic moment for our sport. I think it is very important that everyone benefits from this event and that it takes place in the best possible way for both athletes and the public.
Do you feel that by postponing the games all athletes will be able to complete on a level playing field in the summer of 2021?
The postponement of the Olympics gives us one year to prepare and this is the same for all athletes, as we are all in the same boat. We are waiting for the decision of the IOC with regard to the change in the qualification procedures and are hoping that this decision will be fair and even-handed for all countries.
It is necessary to overcome and move forward.
How are you staying in touch with your team and training partners in these unprecedented times?
I try to keep in touch with my loved ones on social media and phone. The French team organizes videoconferences with its athletes twice a week with staff. This is to do our physical preparation sessions and also to keep in touch. Also to maintain my physical condition I play sports at home. I have several sessions per week, including stretching. But it is also important to stay healthy in your mind and keep up your moral and a good pace of life.
What advice do you have to athletes and sports fans around the world?
For me, I am extremely motivated, I have specific objectives and I know what I must do to achieve them. This situation is a test of life and as always it is necessary to overcome and move forward. I think it is very important to keep in shape by doing regular physical activity at home; to stay in touch with loved ones; and staying motivated. It’s a complicated time for the whole world, but you have to keep a positive mind, as it will all be over soon.
TSG would like to send their best wishes to everyone out there in lockdown. We will all be out riding, skating and biking soon. But in the meantime stay safe, stay fit and stay positive. One love!
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How had it affected Anthony’s plans?