Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback
In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.
But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.
First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.
South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.
So if I’m that athlete, I’d anticipate 10 months of smart focus in training & racing to reduce the heat impact on me down to 2-3 min, and then I might have a shot against the “greyhounds”. I can “win” though prep, something that isn’t always possible when conditions are optimal— Ross Tucker (@Scienceofsport) October 17, 2019
British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.
👇For example, some/many athletes will have competed in Doha as a test/dress rehearsal for 2020, foregoing other potentially valuable races. Those efforts now (partly) redundant. This decision shd’ve been made 2-3 years ago, not with 9 months to go. https://t.co/IoB6S1gfdI— Mara Yamauchi (@mara_yamauchi) October 17, 2019
Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.
Comments about the Sapporo news from European marathon champion Koen Naert, who travelled to Tokyo this past summer to run the Olympic marathon course one year before the Olympics. 今年8月に東京五輪マラソンコース下見に来た欧州マラソン金メダリストのナート選手のコメント： pic.twitter.com/BtNVBqVYYJ— Japan Running News (@JRNHeadlines) October 16, 2019
The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.
“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.
The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.
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