A WHITTINGTON paralympian says he was amazed it took the International Olympic Committee (IOC) so long to make the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mark Fosbrook, who represented Team GB’s volleyball team in the games in Atlanta in 1996, believes the correct decision has ultimately been made to postpone the event by a year amid the crisis.

But he insists he expected it to be made sooner.

The IOC made the decision to cancel the events on March 24, after discussions with the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Fosbrook, who was taken to hospital with suspected coronavirus last month, felt as though any decision to continue with the events in 2020 would have de-valued the games.

He said: “It has absolutely been the correct decision to push the games back – I was amazed it took them so long to make the decision.

“There was no way we were going to be in a position where athletes from all over the world could go and perform. There would have been no way to complete it this year and no way for athletes to be fully-prepared.

“If you look at team sports especially, a lot of players will be self-isolating, so yes they can do training at home, but using wheelchair basketball as an example again, they wouldn’t have a court. They wouldn’t have the ability to all get together and train as a team to allow them to get to peak performance, so it would have actually de-valued the games.”

The former standing volleyball paralympian, who also represented Team GB’s wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby teams, believes there are still logistical issues which need to be fixed following the decision.

He explained: “For a lot of sports, including wheelchair basketball for example, you will have one major tournament each year – but next year there will be two now. People will obviously want to compete in the Olympics, so results in other championships may vary.

“There’s quite a lot of logistical things to think about, and a lot of implications and concerns. I think most athletes will look at it and think it’s a rubbish situation, we can’t do anything about it, we need to re-plan and move forward as best as we can.

“As far as athletes are concerned, there are often difficult obstacles physically, but I think this will have more of an effect psychologically and mentally.”

Fosbrook added that, from an athlete’s perspective, the postponement could have a range of effects on their preparations.

“People train for four years, and for most, the Olympics and Paralympics are the pinnacle of their sporting calendars,” he said.

“Most sports do have European and world championships, and the world championships can be up there as something which is almost as significant as the Paralympics, but the difference is the Olympics and Paralympics are two of the most-watched sporting events in the world.

“So for that reason, I think it does have an extra focus for a lot of athletes. For that preparation to be disrupted, it will have varied effects on athletes. Some athletes might find their preparation is thrown off because of it, but others might recognise it as another year to prepare and to get even stronger, faster and all-round better.

“For some, it will affect their training plan – some will have built up to be at a peak of fitness ready for the summer, but now they’ll have to re-plan that and try to peak again at the right time when the Games take place.

“And then of course there might be some athletes who had planned to retire after the games this summer, and suddenly they have to decide whether to hold off on retiring to compete again next year, or otherwise.”

“There’s more things to think about, with family in mind, such as some athletes may lose family members to COVID-19, so when they come to compete, they might not have the people there they wanted to have supporting them, which could be very heart-wrenching.”