A group of Mongolian Paralympic athletes who came to Japan in February to train with hopes of competing in the now-postponed Tokyo Olympic Games have found themselves unable to return home amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
The six members of Mongolia’s para-athletics team have extended their stay in Yaizu, central Japan, for more than a month so far due to restrictions imposed by the Mongolian government in response to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. But while they are still uncertain as to when they can return, and confess to missing home, the athletes are determined to make the best of their situation, taking advantage of the excellence of facilities available in the Shizuoka Prefecture city.
Manager Byambajav Enkhbaatar, four athletes and a coach were originally scheduled to train in Yaizu between Feb. 14 and March 11 before traveling to Dubai to take part in a tournament that doubled as a Paralympic qualifier. However, the event was cancelled because of the virus. Mongolia has also suspended all international flights arriving and departing from the country, recently extending the restriction until the end of May, according to the Japanese Embassy in Mongolia.
The one-year delay of the 2020 Summer Games was announced on March 24 in response to the global health crisis, which has disrupted the sports calendar throughout the world. Byamba-ochir Garmaabazar, who is aiming to earn a berth for his Paralympic debut in Tokyo, said he was “shocked” after he learned the news of the postponement online.
Now into his third month with his Japanese hosts, who are covering the group’s expenses, his goal is to “improve as much as possible until next year, and meet the expectation of those in Yaizu,” which has supported the team as its host town since 2016.
The Mongolian para-athletics team is not the only group of athletes from overseas staying in Japan despite the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. In Izumisano in Osaka Prefecture, six marathon runners and two coaches from Mongolia have not been able to leave Japan although their training camp was scheduled to end on March 17.
For the four Mongolian athletes, who usually train twice a day on weekdays at an outdoor field or a training gym, being stranded in Yaizu also represents an opportunity to be grasped. Indeed, if there’s a silver lining, it may be that the longer they remain here, the better their chances of competing if the games go ahead as rescheduled next year.
The Tokyo Olympics are now slated to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8 next year, with the Paralympic Games following between Aug. 24 and Sept. 5. (source: kyodo news)