Published: 15:00, 24 March 2020
| Updated: 16:20, 24 March 2020
Kent’s Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls will have to wait another year to fulfil their dreams.
The Tokyo 2020 Games have officially been postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tokyo was set to stage the games from July 24 but there had been growing pressure to postpone, with many athletes unable to prepare properly.
The Games will now take place no later than summer 2021.
Those in Kent hoping to make the Olympics included Gravesend boxer Cheavon Clarke.
Clarke had been ranked No.1 in the UK and was hoping to clinch his seat on the plane to Tokyo during the European qualifiers in London, but they got cancelled just a couple of days into proceedings having gone ahead behind closed doors.
The heavyweight boxer recently spoke on the Kent Sporting Dreams podcast about how making the Olympics outweighed the chance of turning pro, saying: “Going to the Olympics, nobody can ever take that from you. Anybody can be a pro boxer – how many do you actually know have gone to the Olympics?
“No disrespect to anybody but there’s nothing special about being a pro, I can do that tomorrow. You can’t just go to the Olympics tomorrow.”
He, like others, will now have to wait.
Tonbridge AC race walker Tom Bosworth was also hoping to be at the Olympics and just last week he was remaining confident they would go ahead, although was having to cope with a number of cancelled races.
He took a sixth place at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Maidstone gymnast Courtney Tulloch was another hopeful. He had been hoping to contest the finals of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) Apparatus World Cup in Azerbaijan this week but the event, in Baku, was cancelled halfway through after qualification had taken place.
It is not yet been decided whether the FIG will use qualification standings as the basis for results from the event, part of the qualification process for this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
No British table tennis athlete had yet qualified but Minster paralympian Ross Wilson was among those hoping to win a place, having competed at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Several Kent-based hockey players were also due to be involved.
The GB men’s and women’s squads were both due to travel to South Africa earlier this month for warm weather training camps as part of their Tokyo preparations but that were cancelled because of the pandemic.
Women GB internationals from Holcombe included Sarah Jones, Charlotte Watson and Leah Wilkinson while the men’s current squad includes David Ames and Mark Gleghorne from the Rochester-based side.
Olympic gold medallist from the Rio games, Susannah Townsend was also hoping to be involved along with her former Canterbury team-mate Grace Balsdon, now at Hampstead & Westminster.
Retired double Olympic middle distant champion Kelly Holmes, from Kent, backed the move, saying: “If you can’t train to your full capabilities and other countries aren’t going to be able to compete equate of the devastation in their countries it is not a fair playing field and it shouldn’t carry on.”
A joint statement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said: “In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”