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Canada, Australia to withhold Olympic athletes unless postponed

The Canadian Olympic Committee will not send athletes to Tokyo this summer to compete and has called upon the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games “for one year” amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The release noted that the decision is backed by the Canadian athletes’ commission as well as the government of Canada, and it marks the first country to publicly announce that it will withhold athletes from the quadrennial competition if held July 24-Aug. 9 as scheduled.

“This is not solely about athlete health - it is about public health,” the statement read. “With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training toward these Games. In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice we urge all Canadians to follow.”

The International Olympic Committee agreed Sunday to explore other options for the 2020 Games, including the possibility of postponement.

Earlier Sunday the IOC shared a letter to athletes in which it revealed that canceling the Olympics outright is not currently under consideration, but that a decision on a possible postponement should be made within the next four weeks.

With each country capped at sending two male and female golfers (unless up to four are ranked inside the top 15 in the world), there are four Canadians currently in line to qualify for Tokyo. The projected male representatives are Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners, ranked Nos. 55 and 66, respectively, in the world. Neither player competed in the 2016 Olympics.

On the women’s side, Canada is projected to be represented by Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp. Both women competed in Rio four years ago, with Henderson tying for seventh and Sharp finishing 20th.

Shortly after the Canadian delegation made their announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee followed with a similar declaration, telling its athletes that they “should prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021.”

“The AOC held an executive board meeting via teleconference this morning and unanimously agreed than an Australian team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad,” the statement read. “We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs. With travel and other restrictions, this becomes an untenable situation.”

Based on current standings, Australia would be represented in golf by Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Minjee Lee and Hannah Green. Of the four, only Lee played in Rio in 2016, finishing T-7.