In the hours after the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced the Olympics would be postponed until 2021, Belgium Hockey players responded almost universally with understanding and disappointment.
The decision was taken considering the worldwide effect of the COVID-19 threat, and the safety of everyone involved with the Olympics.
For many, another year of training poses difficult questions about careers and life choices. For others, the questions are simply whether or not they can remain at the top of their games for another year.
That sentiment was echoed over and over by athletes across the country and from all sports.
Given the way the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed so many lives, the economies, and continues to have a devastating effect on many countries, 3x Olympian & Belgium men’s hockey team Captain Thomas Briels, called the decision “best call”.
“I think it is the best call. The health of the world is more important than sports.” Thomas told the ‘Dragflick’ from Antwerp where he is currently in self-isolation.
Thomas, who is also a qualified, practising podiatrist although disappointed, said the welfare of athletes was paramount and health is priority at these times.
“The team is disappointed because we were very motivated and ready for the Olympics. But everyone understands the situation and we will be more than ready when the time is there.” said Thomas.
More than 487,600 coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide since last December, with the death toll above 21,500.
As of March 26, a total of 1,298 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Belgium, bringing the total to 6,235, according to a statement by the Federal Public Service of Health.
The Hockey fraternity will have to see what steps the National Federations take to go about carrying out the Olympic preparations for the next year.
There is no doubt that each National Federation will have to make significant changes to their plans and train differently going forward.
For Thomas, it is important for him and his team to stay mentally strong and deal with the situation positively.