BIG INTERVIEW: Olympian Samantha Murray believes the right decision has been made to postpone the Tokyo Games
With the International Olympic Committee finally agreeing to postpone the Tokyo Games for a year, two-time Olympian Samantha Murray feels they had little option.
The Clitheroe athlete won silver in modern pentathlon at the 2012 Games in London, and was eighth four years later in Rio.
And the 2013 World champion pointed to a number of risks in trying to go ahead as planned with the start of the XXXII Olympiad at the end of July, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Murray, now based in Bath, reacted to the news that a number of nations were planning a boycott, before UK Sport, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association held a conference call with the chief executives and performance directors of summer Olympic and Paralympic sports on Tuesday to look at their options.
While there were issues with athletes’ preparations being hindered at present, and competitions on hold, she insisted there are more pressing issues regarding health.
“I’m still trying to process it all now,” said Murray.
“I heard within the athletic community that Japan has the oldest population in the world, with Italy second.
“So you can see the problem there, first of all, with the elderly more at risk.
“The second thing, and it is a difficult topic that not a lot of athletes will talk about willingly, is exercise-induced asthma.
“Athletes who have trained in extreme cardio events – swimming, endurance, cycling...it puts a huge strain on the lungs every day.
“Most athletes carry an inhaler for when they have a session where they just can’t breathe, or they get a panic attack, etcetra.
“Mo Farah has an inhaler – a lot of professional athletes do.
“I found in certain weather conditions I would have a wheeze that wouldn’t stop.
“I had tests and they gave me an inhaler.
“People with asthma are at risk currently, and stats show hundreds of thousands of athletes carry and need an inhaler.
“They are all fit and healthy, but a lot have asthma.
“These are real risks for athletes.” The Olympic Games were contracted to be held in Tokyo this year, and Murray understands the reluctance to move the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’.
But she does not understand why a decision was not made earlier, when other sports have acted swiftly.
Last week, football’s Euro 2020 tournament was postponed until next year, and Murray added: “The Olympics is probably the second-biggest sporting championships after the football World Cup.
“And if this was football, I think football would already have cancelled it.
“Because it is the Olympics, and there are no domestic or continental leagues to make revenue, like football, the Olympic community needs the Games to go ahead.
“Football always has next season, but the Olympics is only once every four years.
“Look at my career – I went to the Euros, World Cups, won a World Championship, but did anyone care?
“It is the Olympics that people remember you for – that’s what you train for, what affects you financially, with your sponsorships and public engagements.
“Everyone remembers Kelly Holmes for her Olympic golds, not her World or European medals.
“I’m the girl who won the last Team GB medal at London 2012, but I was World champion, and I competed for 12 years.
“The Olympics are what people remember you for, that’s your legacy.”
Postponing the Games also throws up a number of other issues, as Murray added: “For Olympic sports, it is the ultimate, so there is a moral dilemma – without it, what do you do?
“It is unprecedented, and there was talk of it being postponed until October – Japan’s climate is cold from November usually, so October would be the last time they could hold it, realistically, for track and field.
“They could push it back to 2021, but a lot of athletes are coming to the end of a four-year cycle, preparing for 2020, this is what they have been working towards.
“And maybe some athletes are retiring after these Games, people starting a family, going into a job, going to University to start a course.
“They would have to put everything on hold for another year.
“So the human side of it is a conundrum as well.”