USA Swimming urges Olympics postponement over coronavirus pandemic

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USA Swimming on Friday called for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to be postponed for one year over the global coronavirus pandemic that has effectively shut down most sports.

USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey sent an email to Sarah Hirschland, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO, saying he has watched athletes struggle to train and prepare for the Summer Olympics because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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“Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all. Our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness should be among the highest priorities,” Hinchey wrote.

He continued: “It is with the burden of these serious concerns that we respectfully request that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by one year. There are no perfect answers, and this will not be easy; however, it is a solution that provides a concrete path forward and allows all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021.”

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USA Today first obtained the email from Hinchey to Hirshland.

Olympic organizers have held firm that the games would start on time even as uncertainty around how long certain parts of the world will be affected.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic (USOPC) leaders said during a conference call earlier Friday it is too early to make decisions on the Olympics just yet.

“We'd concur with them to say we need more expert advice than we have today,” said Susanne Lyons, the chair of the USOPC. “And we don't have to make a decision. The games are four months from now.”

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The USOPC brings 550 athletes to the Games every two years.

Some athletes have already expressed their own uncertainty about going to Tokyo.

Olympic silver medalist pole vaulter Sandi Morris tweeted Thursday: “The most infuriating part of this whole thing is it feels like the IOC is going to do what they want, regardless of what the athletes think.”

Olympian Jacob Pebley called on USA Swimming to postpone Olympic Trials.

“How can we, members of Team USA and role models for hundreds of thousands of young athletes, attend Olympic Trials/the Olympics in good conscience? To do so would fly in the face of all emerging evidence and best practices for social distancing and protecting the health of vulnerable communities,” wrote in a letter to USA Swimming.

Hirshland has said the federation is working with individual sports, both at the national and international levels, to adapt in the event the Olympics take place without a qualifying structure.

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She added that the federation has to keep moving forward unless the International Olympic Committee makes some kind of change.

The Olympics are set to begin on July 24.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.