Athletes and sports federations look at the postponement of the 2020 Olympics as a blessing in disguise despite having to wrap their heads around revised training programs and budgets, as it gives them another year to hone their skills and prepare for competition on the biggest stage.

Veteran weightlifter Eko Yuli Irawan was not discouraged when he heard that the Tokyo Games were postponed to sometime next year, no later than summer 2021. He is still hopeful to come out on top at the sporting event to bring home Olympic gold.

“One thing is certain; the preparation time will be much longer,” Eko told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “It also does not affect me mentally; I will keep adhering to the [training] program.”

Having participated in three Olympic games since 2008, the Indonesian has collected one silver and two bronze medals. Silver, which he won in the men’s 61-kilogram category at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is his highest achievement so far.

At the age of 30, which by occupational standards can no longer be considered young, Eko and the Indonesian Weightlifting, Powerlifting and Bodybuilders Association (PABBSI) will now have to design a training program that is suitable for maintaining him at his prime as they push ahead with the year-long preparation for 2021.

Indonesia weightlifting team manager Alamsyah Wijaya said the postponement had forced him to review all training programs, but he insisted the association would continue to train athletes who had been preparing for the Tokyo Games.

“We will ask the Youth and Sports Ministry not to stop the training program. [With this delay] we will be entering the halfway period of our preparations at the end of this year,” Alamsyah said on Friday. “Like it or not, […] we are entering the performance maintenance period again.”

The PABBSI has secured two spots for the Tokyo weightlifting event, one for Eko and the other for youngster Windy Cantika Aisah, who competes in the women’s 49-kg category.

The association has received Rp 10 billion (US$616,142) from the ministry for its 2020 training programs, which include preparations for the Olympics. But now that the Summer Games have been moved back to 2021, Alamsyah said the PABBSI would talk to the ministry about shifting some of the funds previously allocated for tryouts and overseas training camps toward keeping the Olympics training program afloat for the remainder of the year.

So far, plans to participate in a tryout in Romania and a tournament in Kazakhstan have been scrapped because the events were canceled, while training camps also had to be postponed in light of Japan’s decision to push back the Games over fears of exposing people to a risk of COVID-19 contagion.

Based on the team manager’s calculations, the 2020 funds should be enough to cover training until the end of the year, including wages for the athletes and coaches.

“Our program mustn’t stop. If it is stopped right now because the government doesn’t have enough funds, for instance, we’ll lose three months’ worth of preparations,” he said, adding that an official letter would be sent to the sports ministry soon to find the best solution.

“When we summon athletes back to the training camp, they can’t immediately get back to their usual level of performance. If the government’s budget is limited, we’ll adjust our program – so long as we can continue with training.”

Similarly, the Indonesian Shooting Association (Perbakin) said it would also coordinate with the government to ensure it can continue preparations for the deferred Summer Games.

The association has had to nix several plans for oversea tryouts, including the Shooting World Cup in India, tournaments in Germany and Azerbaijan and the Olympics test event in Tokyo.

“Because there have been a number of canceled events, some of the allocated funds can no longer be accounted for,” Perbakin secretary-general Firtian Judiswandarta said on Friday.

“We’ll consult with the Youth and Sports Ministry on how to shift those funds into our training program,” Firtian told the Post. Perbakin received Rp 7.9 billion for its 2020 training fund.

On the bright side, the delay also gives the association time to book more places for Tokyo.

The Indonesian shooting squad had booked one spot in the Tokyo Games through Vidya Rafika Rahmatan Toyyiba. The 18-year-old secured her spot after finishing 14th overall in the women’s 10-meter air rifle qualifier during the 2019 Asian Shooting Championship in Qatar.

Now it could also prepare Vidya for a place in the women’s 50-m rifle three-positions category, and another spot in the 10-m air rifle mixed team category, with fellow shooter Fatur Gustafian, Firtian said.

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