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Tokyo 2020: How Gambian athletes Reacted to Olympic Games Postponement

Faye Njie, Finish-based Gambian judoka

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was last week placed on hold after the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government agreed to postpone the Summer Games until sometime next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time in modern Olympic history, a global health issue has suspended the Games.

The Chronicle has been speaking to various top Gambian athletes who have targeted these Games for many years.

The postponement comes as a relief to Gambia’s top male sprinter Adama Jammeh, citing this will give him the opportunity to prepare well for the global showpiece. “This will give me the chance to work harder for the games, “he tells The Chronicle. I am now focused on making my qualifications because I’ve regained so much speed.”

Adama Jammeh (middle)

Adama has been undergoing grueling training schedules at the Dakar’s High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in neighboring, Senegal. But due to the pandemic, Jammeh has now returned to his home at Nema Kunku were he’s training in isolation. “Right now I am home were I will continue with my personal fitness training, “He said. At home, I do push-ups, easy jogging, power rope and skips.

“I think the IOC made a good decision to postpone the games consideration the safety and health of the athletes.”

Adama Jammeh is hoping to meet the qualification time in order to compete at the games in Tokyo. He said qualification for the global event is top of his priorities. “I want to be at the games through qualification first and anything after that is possible.”

Meanwhile, the qualifying system for Tokyo 2020 saw some changes from the previous Olympics. While the qualification from Rio 2016 and other previous editions relied on qualifying times, Tokyo 2020 is primarily based on world ranking and Adama wants to make the mark. “That’s my focus right now, “he said. I have to work harder and keep on improving.

In 2016, Adama became the first Gambian 200m male runner to get an Olympic qualifier standard when he clocked 20.45 seconds at the African Senior Athletics Championship in Durban, South Africa. He won a Silver medal for The Gambia. He also finished 5th position at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in the 200m with timing of 20.55 seconds.

For Gambia’s beach volleyball sensation Sainey Jawo, it was “Disappointing” to learn about the postponement of the Tokyo games. “It was a big disappointment for me because I believe Gambia beach volleyball could have already qualified to the games, “he tells The Chronicle. We have already qualified in the first and second round, so we are left with the final round and I believe that we will make it.”

Sainey Jawo

For Swimmer Momodou Lamin Saine, the postponement of the Olympics doesn’t just mean another year of physical training. It means another year of maintaining motivation and ensuring better preparations. Saine, 19, is Gambia’s 50m butterfly and freestyle champion. “It’s going to be a task to maintain my fitness and body shape, “he tells The Chronicle. I agree with the decision to move the games but also difficult for some of us to keep on track with the level of fitness required.

The Gambia made its Olympic debut in swimming in 2016 in Rio Janeiro through wild-card qualification and Momodou Lamin Saine is hoping to be the first Gambian swimmer to meet the Olympic qualifying time of 22.01 seconds in the 50m Freestyle to Tokyo 2020.

Momodou Lamin Saine

In Judo, Faye Njie, Finish-based Gambian judoka said, “of course it was a disappointing news to hear the postponement. But for me it was an evitable decision in these difficult times because people’s health would have been risked otherwise.”

So far, Gina Bass is the only Gambian athlete who have secured Olympic qualification.

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