(Reuters) - British sprinter Desiree Henry will prioritise her health and family’s well-being over competing at the Tokyo Olympics next year if the COVID-19 pandemic has not been brought under control.
The Games were pushed back by a year to July-August 2021 due to the new coronavirus and Henry, a 4x100 metres relay bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, urged athletes not to risk their health, saying she wouldn’t “die for the sport”.
“We are more than just athletes and performers that want to entertain people in a crowd. We’re humans that have families and lives to think of,” Henry told Reuters.
“You have to put your health first. I want to live, I want all the other athletes to live and be healthy. If the pandemic hasn’t been sorted by 2021, I would have to put my health first, I have a family to come back to.
“I would personally take a step back, because I’m not trying to say, ‘I’m going to die for the sport’... I’m not going to do that.
“I really do care about my own health and my family and I would honestly encourage others to think outside of being an athlete and just remember you’re an individual where people and family love you.”
With training centres closed due to lockdown measures in the United Kingdom, Henry has been getting her designated daily exercise on a golf course in London.
The 24-year-old said the uncertainty surrounding upcoming events made it mentally tough to “train towards a goal” but she was looking forward to competing in smaller competitions throughout the year.
Henry also said she was not worried about being unable to fulfill her potential but that the Olympics postponement must have hit some athletes hard, particularly those who looked at Tokyo as their swansong.
“It’s probably the hardest for athletes that are either looking to retire, looking to start a family and their sights were set on making the Olympics one more time as the largest pinnacle of our sport,” she added.
“That must be kind of a hard moment where you have to really change everything in your life... I kind of do have age on my side. So I’m not thinking of anything too far ahead in terms of ‘oh, I can never reach my potential’.”
Writing by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris