Turkish athletes welcome postponement of 2020 Olympics

By Halil Ibrahim Avsar and Erkan Tiryaki

ANKARA (AA) – Several Turkish athletes who previously earned to be on the 2020 Olympics quota, welcomed the games' postponement decision due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Taekwondo athlete Hatice Kubra Ilgun and wrestlers Taha Akgul, Cenk Ildem and Suleyman Atli each told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that health was more important than the games as they followed the necessary precautions to avoid COVID-19.

"Health is important for sure. We have to spend this [postponement] process by preventing [disease]," Ilgun said, adding that people should stay at home to minimize the risk.

Ilgun said that her goal remains same as she targets gold medal in 2021 olympics.

An olympic gold medalist in men's wrestling, Akgul said the novel coronavirus spread very quickly as the athletes preferred to work out at home.

"The coronavirus also affected athletes in a very serious way," Akgul said.

"But we had very good news yesterday, as the Olympics were postponed. I was extremely happy about this decision. Because I had an injury," Akgul said, adding that he had been through an operation in January.

The 29-year-old said he could not perform well if the 2020 Olympics had been held in August.

"The health of athletes is more important than anything else," he said.

Rio 2016 Olympics' bronze medalist Cenk Ildem said the postponement of Tokyo 2020 was the "right decision," and that there would be changes in their schedules, but it did not matter for Turkish athletes.

Ildem said he has remained under quarantine for 14 days after returning from the training camp in Hungary.

World no. 2 in wrestling, Atli said that he had been doing his physical exercises at home due to the coronavirus pandemic and called everyone to stay in their homes.

He stated that the coronavirus hit sports events, referring to the delay of Tokyo 2020, adding that this postponement did not change his plans and aims for the olympics.

"It doesn't matter if the games will be held in 2020 or 2021. My goals are to be ready for the olympics and win the title," Atli added.

Separately, the Turkish Minister of Youth and Sports said the Turkish athletes would be much stronger for the 2021 games.

Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu assured that Turkish athletes would do their best in the next year's olympics and paralympic games.

Kasapoglu said the Turkish sports community would go on with their efforts without losing energy and motivation.

He added that Turkey would overcome this process "in a strong way" as the whole country took precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese government on Tuesday agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for one year as the world grapples with the impact the of coronavirus.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 172 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 460,200 while the death toll is over 20,800 and more than 113,600 have recovered.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.