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Coronavirus: Olympics swansong denied or delayed? Biles, Felix, Federer and other stars left in limbo

By Russell Greaves

London, March 24: It had been on the cards for some time, but Tuesday's announcement confirming the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics still hit hard.

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, it appeared the International Olympic Committee had hoped the Games would somehow still go ahead.

However, within 48 hours of declaring a four-week window in which to make a final decision, the declaration came – the 2020 Olympics would be delayed by a year.

In an instant, dreams were put on hold, and some perhaps altogether dashed. Competitors with their hearts set on taking part in Japan later this year suddenly had to revise their plans entirely.

For some, it may prove to be a very manageable inconvenience, but what about those who had marked this down as their final Games?

Here we take a look at the stars who were planning to wave farewell to the Olympic stage in Tokyo, and whether the intervention of COVID-19 might have deprived them of that opportunity.

SIMONE BILES (GYMNASTICS)

This was set to be Biles' final outing at the greatest show on earth, having cleaned up with four gold medals in Rio four years ago.

Though only 23, gymnastics is a sport where time very quickly catches up with its stars and Biles would have been a relative veteran of the field.

A delay of one year does not necessarily rule Biles out, but it will give the American – who topped the podium five times at the 2019 World Championships – plenty to ponder.

ALLYSON FELIX (ATHLETICS)

With six golds and three silvers in a decorated Olympic career, Felix will have been hoping to return for a fifth time.

Having debuted on the biggest stage back in 2004, Felix has gone on to cement her position as a track legend.

Felix turns 35 this year and had spoken of her desire to sign off with a bang, telling NBC Sports of her plans to run both the 100 and 200 metres.

"Everything's on the table this year," she said. "This year, I'm going to be getting back to sprinting. I think that's really key for me to be myself, and that's something that I didn't even get to touch last year."

ROGER FEDERER (TENNIS)

The Swiss maestro is the most prolific collector of grand slam titles in the history of men's tennis, but one honour has eluded him.

While Federer does possess an Olympic gold, it came when he shared the top step of the podium with doubles partner Stan Wawrinka in Beijing.

Glory in the singles event has proven beyond the 38-year-old, who lost the 2012 London final to home favourite Andy Murray.

Having missed the last Games with a knee injury, Federer will sorely hope that defeat to Murray at Wimbledon's All England Club will not prove to have been an unwitting Olympics farewell.

KERRI WALSH JENNINGS (BEACH VOLLEYBALL)

With a medal haul that makes her the most successful beach volleyball player in history, Jennings had Japan locked in as her sixth Games.

However, she turns 42 in August and having the event pushed back by a year may diminish her chances of taking part.

Time will tell if the American can add to her three gold medals and one bronze.

YOHAN BLAKE (ATHLETICS)

His career having largely overlapped with superstar compatriot Usain Bolt, Blake's quest for gold was always going to prove tough.

Indeed, the two in his collection came after winning the 4x100m in a team including the peerless Bolt.

However, even with the world-record holder now gone from the scene, Blake would have been well down the pecking order in Japan.

Whether he returns in 2021 or not, his double-silver exploits in the 100m and 200m at London 2012 are not to be sniffed at.

ALISTAIR BROWNLEE (TRIATHLON)

Briton Brownlee sealed gold on home soil in 2012 and defended his crown in Rio.

His brother Jonathan took third and second respectively and both were expected to line up in Tokyo.

At 31, Alistair is the senior sibling by two years and had mulled the decision for a long while, meaning the 12-month delay could prove decisive.

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Story first published: Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 23:10 [IST]
Other articles published on Mar 24, 2020
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