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Feature: Stars set to miss out on Tokyo 2020

23 Jun 2021, 22:30 GMT+10

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By sportswriter Su Bin

BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhua) -- With one month to go before the Tokyo Olympic Games open, athletes across the globe are sweating on their preparations for the rescheduled sporting extravaganza.

But some prominent names will not be seen in Tokyo for various reasons. Some have called an end to their careers, some were forced to withdraw through injuries or illness, while others are serving suspensions.


The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world, and sports is no exception. Postponing the Tokyo Olympic Games by one year has affected athletes' preparations, especially for veterans who were planning to retire after Tokyo 2020 last year.

Chinese badminton legend Lin Dan, who had attempted to make his fifth Olympic appearance in Tokyo, ended his illustrious 20-year career on July 4, 2020, saying it would be too much to ask of his 37-year-old body.

Belgian swimmer Pieter Timmers, who won the men's 100m freestyle silver medal in Rio, had to retire last November after the year-long postponement thwarted his watertight plan, which had been designed years ago to "give everything once more at the Games, and then start a new chapter."

Japanese Olympic badminton champion Ayaka Takahashi was also forced to bid farewell to her career.

"After the announcement of the postponement of Tokyo 2020, I thought I could not keep my motivation high enough to go through another tough year," she said.

It's quite natural that veterans have to weigh the pros and cons of the postponement of their careers before making decisions.

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A batch of athletes have decided to skip the Tokyo 2020 Games through injuries or fitness issues.

On June 1, Olympic badminton gold medalist Carolina Marin said that she would not be able to defend her title in Tokyo after having torn the meniscus and anterior cruciate ligaments in her left knee.

Two-time Olympic triple-jump champion Christian Taylor cannot strive for a three-peat after rupturing an Achilles tendon in May. The four-time world champion later underwent surgery and will miss the Tokyo Games.

After failing to extend his winning record in the French Open, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal confirmed that he has withdrawn from the upcoming Wimbledon tournament and the Tokyo Olympics.

"The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition," explained the 35-year-old Nadal.

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He was later joined in the Olympic absentees by Dominic Thiem, who had suffered a first-round exit at Roland Garros.

"For me, like all athletes, taking part in the Olympics and representing my country is a huge honor and that makes this decision even tougher. However, 2021 did not start as expected and I don't feel ready to play my best in Tokyo," said Thiem.

The Austrian, however, didn't rule out his Olympic hopes for the future.

"I am young and I hope to be able to play for Austria at the Olympics in Paris 2024," he added.


Also worth a moment of lamenting are those who have to serve out suspensions over doping offenses.

Men's 100m world champion Christian Coleman was banned for two years last October, as Athletics Integrity Unit found him three violations of doping control rules.

The American sprinter had his ban reduced to 18 months after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). But the suspension won't expire until November, meaning he will still not be able to compete in Tokyo this summer.

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World and Olympic champion Sun Yang's hopes of competing at the Tokyo Games have been ended, even after the CAS reduced the Chinese swimmer's ban for doping violations from eight years to four years and three months.

Sun was banned after he and members of his entourage were found to have smashed vials containing blood samples taken at an out-of-competition test in September 2018.

Due to three violations of whereabouts rules in a one-year period, Olympic long jump silver medalist Luvo Manyonga from South Africa was banned for four years in June.

It was the 30-year-old Manyonga's second doping case, thus leading to doubling the usual two-year ban for whereabouts violations.

Starting from December 23, 2020, Manyonga's ban runs into the end of 2024, meaning he will miss the next two Summer Games in Tokyo and Paris.

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Another track and field star unable to feature in Tokyo is Elijah Manangoi from Kenya. The 2017 men's 1,500m world champion missed three tests within less than half a year and has been banned through December 2021.

While some stars will be missing from Tokyo, when the cauldron is ignited at the opening ceremony on July 23, a new generation of athletes will be eyeing to take over their mantle.

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