USA Gymnastics will join USA Swimming and USA Track & Field in asking that the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee lobby for a postponement of the Tokyo Games.
The decision comes after USA Gymnastics surveyed 70 athletes in men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline, and 62 percent of the respondents said they favored postponement. They cited the health and safety risks caused by COVID-19, as well as the impact the pandemic is having on training.
The 38 percent who wanted the Games to go ahead as planned cited the physical wear and tear of the sport, the cost of training, and a desire not to delay education and professional plans any longer.
“There is no easy answer in this,” Li Li Leung, the president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, said on a conference call Monday afternoon. “At least we have some information from our athletes.”
The International Olympic Committee has not officially postponed the Tokyo Games, saying Sunday that it would decide within the next four weeks. But longtime IOC member Dick Pound told USA TODAY Sports on Monday that “postponement has been decided.”
USA Swimming was the first governing body to say the Games should be postponed, sending a letter to the USOPC on Friday. USATF followed suit the next day. Leung said she didn’t want to speak for gymnasts until she’d had a chance to hear from them, and questionnaires were sent out Friday.
The survey went to senior national teams in all four disciplines, and 80 percent responded. Answers were anonymous, and athletes were not asked to identify their discipline. Thus, it’s unclear if there was a preference among the artistic gymnastics athletes vs. trampoline, or if there was a difference between the men’s and women’s artistic athletes.
The inability to train has been a frequent concern of athletes in all sports. While Leung said a “majority” of gymnasts are still able to train at private clubs, there is no guarantee how long that will continue as stay-at-home orders increase. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for example, closed last week after that state’s governor ordered all gyms to shut down.
While most gymnasts said they favored a postponement to 2021, Leung said USA Gymnastics was not going to specify a date to the USOPC. Gymnasts were more concerned with the health risks, not wanting the Olympics to be held until it’s safe to do so and all gymnasts are able to train consistently.
“Athletes pointed back to being able to train and being able to get back in the gym,” Leung said.
Leung also said that, if there are no Olympics this summer, there will be no Olympic trials, either. Those currently are scheduled for June 25-28 in St. Louis. USA Gymnastics would still try and hold the national championships, though.
“As long as the environment would be safe to compete in, we would hold championships,” Leung said. “I don’t know the timing of that, though. … We’re looking at different options in terms of competition schedules now.”
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