COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today issued the following statement in response to the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees’ respective announcements that the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be postponed to 2021, due to ongoing logistical and public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic:
Statement from USA Triathlon
First and foremost, we recognize the challenges facing our U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls who have been preparing for years for their moment at the Tokyo 2020 Games. USA Triathlon believes that postponing the Olympic and Paralympic Games until 2021 was the proper decision in the best interests of global public health. We also fully support this announcement because the ability for athletes around the world to both train properly and qualify fairly for the Games has been significantly impacted due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. We echo the IOC’s and IPC’s determinations to postpone, and we are prepared to support our athletes so that they will be ready to achieve exceptional performances on the world stage next year.
While we believe postponement was the only viable option to provide much-needed clarity, we recognize the impact this has had on our athletes. Years of dedicated training, sacrifices made with family and friends in order to travel and race around the world, and fine-tuned mental preparation have all been designed to culminate in the summer of 2020, and now that approach must change. We recognize that for many athletes, this news may be simultaneously relieving and heartbreaking. While it has become clear that postponing is the only logical, safe and fair decision in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will nevertheless take time for our athletes to process this news and shift their mindsets to 2021. Thus, our immediate focus is on supporting our athletes during this time.
We are appreciative of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s commitment to surveying Tokyo 2020 hopefuls and gathering information from all sports before recommending a decision to the IOC, as well as for their leadership and communication with the U.S. National Governing Bodies during this unprecedented time. We also acknowledge the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) continued efforts to keep us informed and included in their processes and methods throughout this situation. We are grateful for the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the people of Japan for their ongoing support and willingness to undergo the monumental logistical challenges they now face in postponing the world’s largest sports gathering.
In addition, we would like to thank the fans of our elite athletes, as well as the supporters of USA Triathlon, Team USA, our corporate partners and the worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Movements. We share in the disappointment that these Games could not go on as planned in 2020, but we prioritize the health and well-being of our athletes above all else, and we know the Tokyo Games in 2021 will carry added meaning and impact for all who are involved.
USA Triathlon is now focused on our new path forward. We are in the process of re-examining our qualification and selection procedures for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Triathlon Teams while simultaneously coordinating plans with the ITU and the USOPC, and also collaborating to receive input and guidance from the USA Triathlon Board of Directors and USA Triathlon Athlete Advisory Council. Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.) is the single athlete to date who has auto-qualified for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, based on her fifth-place finish at the Tokyo ITU Olympic Qualification Event held in August of 2019. No athletes have auto-qualified for the U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team. We will issue updates regarding our revised selection and qualification procedures once finalized.
“I am pleased that our elite athletes have clarity around the status of the Olympics and Paralympics, and that we can all look ahead to 2021 with renewed hope and excitement for a safe and fair Games,” said John Farra, USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager. “We recognize that our athletes’ training and racing schedules, as well as their daily lives, have been upended during this uncertain time. Now, they have the confidence that they will have an Olympic and Paralympic opportunity next year, and that those who have not yet qualified will have the chance to identify themselves as Olympic and Paralympic contenders once the triathlon season is able to start again. USA Triathlon’s high performance staff will continue to communicate and serve as a resource for our athletes, while supporting any and all adjustments necessary as we plan our next steps to prepare for success in 2021.”
“We know that this postponement affects our U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls deeply, both on a personal and professional level, and we are dedicated to supporting their path forward in every way possible,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “Let us also remember that the focus right now must be on curbing this global pandemic, and that the challenges we all face together are much larger than sport. We hope this decision provides clarity so that our athletes, and the entire Olympic and Paralympic family, can focus on our personal health and well-being and that of our loved ones while doing our part to help limit the spread of COVID-19.”
Click here for the complete joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, and here for the complete statement from the IPC. The USOPC’s letter to athletes is available at teamusa.org.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).