March 19, 2020 / 3:30 AM / 4 months ago

Olympics: World's top climber stays focused amid coronavirus crisis

TOKYO (Reuters) - Slovenian Janja Garnbret, the world’s top female climber, is staying calm and focused despite the coronavirus outbreak playing havoc with sports events around the world and plunging preparations for the Tokyo Olympics into chaos.

The 21-year-old is one of some 10,000 athletes preparing to compete at the Tokyo Games, which organizers insist will go ahead as scheduled from July 24 even as the global sports calendar has ground to a halt due to the pandemic.

The flu-like virus has infected more than 212,000 people and caused 8,700 deaths in 164 nations.

Garnbret, the reigning two-time world champion in the combined climbing event set to make its Olympics debut in Tokyo, has qualified for the Games already but others are not so lucky.

So far, 15 of the 20 Olympic spots for the women’s event are filled and two further qualification events have been canceled.

With a little over four months to go, all Garnbret can do is keep her head down and train at home in Ljubljana.

“Right now, we are a little bit, how to say, scared or worried if the Olympics will take place or not,” Garnbret told Reuters by video call last week during a break from filming with her sponsor Red Bull.

“My trainings are going full speed onwards. I am not stopping the training because of that (coronavirus).”

Even if the Games were pushed back by a year Garnbret said she would be able to adapt.

“Every year I am training hard for the competitions and every year I am in the same ritual; I start to train hard in December and then I train hard the whole winter,” she said.

“So, I think if it was postponed then it wouldn’t be such a problem because I would be training hard anyway.”

One possibility being floated is that the Games are held without spectators but Garnbret wants a full house to watch her bid to win climbing’s first Olympic gold.

“It would be hard if the Olympics was postponed for a year but it would also be weird to have an Olympics without spectators because that is the charm of the competition, to have everybody clapping, cheering and supporting you,” said Garnbret.

“If the Olympics will (go ahead), then they will be super good and if they will be postponed for a year, then what can we do?

“There is no point in stressing over it.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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