EVERY athlete who has aspirations of making it to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer will have felt something inside them change over the past few days.

For months, sometimes years, leading up to an Olympic Games, athletes are well aware of exactly how much time they have before they need to hit their peak.

And so when the calendar flips over into an Olympic year, things suddenly become more urgent.

The pressure of ensuring you make it into Team GB is unlike anything experienced in a normal sporting year. Every athlete knows if they mess this up they will, at best have to wait another four years for another chance, at worst they will never again get the opportunity to become an Olympian.

A select few have already been assured of selection for Tokyo; the sailing team, including 2012 medallist Luke Patience from Aberdeen, had already been selected before the pandemic hit. 

But for most, the pressure that comes with Olympic selection has now dragged on for well over a year, and there are still a number of months to go. 

January 1st will have brought with it a sense of deja vu as this time last year, there were no signs of the havoc covid was about to wreak. So athletes around the world have already experienced that feeling of entering Olympic year only for things to be turned on their head just two  months later. 

For some athletes, the postponement of Tokyo will have been a huge positive. The likes of 400m hurdler Eilidh Doyle and para-sprinter, Libby Clegg, both of whom have had babies in the past two years, will no doubt have been thankful for the extra 12 months to prepare for the Games.

Similarly, for young athletes such as middle-distance runner Jemma Reekie, track cyclist Jack Carlin and swimmer Duncan Scott, an extra year of training to become stronger, fitter and better mentally prepared will have done them good.

For others however, the postponement of the Games will have been life-changing in a negative way. For athletes creeping towards the end of their career, another year of putting your body through hell to ensure it is at its peak come Tokyo might not sound long, but let me assure you, it is a tall order.

What is also hard is the uncertainty of what the Tokyo Olympics will look like when they do finally start at the end of July. 

It now seems certain the Olympics will go ahead, but under what circumstances remains unclear. 

Much of the magic comes from the buzz created in stadiums and arenas from the thousands of fans who can’t believe their luck they are part of the Olympics. It remains to be seen if there will be crowds at all in Tokyo.

Similarly, the Athletes’ Village is one of the stand-out parts of the experience for many athletes, myself included, but it seems certain that will not be the same as in a pre-covid world.

On the flip side, there have been predictions from a number of high-profile athletes that Tokyo will see some of the best performances ever.

The lack of competitive events this year has allowed athletes time to train that never happens in a regular sporting year. In normal times, athletes have a maximum of a few months of uninterrupted training before they re-enter the competitive arena, but last year allowed for an unprecedented block of training. 

It remains to be seen quite how Tokyo pans out, but one thing is for sure, the lead-up has been different from anything ever experienced before and the Games themselves are certain to be different.

Whatever Tokyo 2020 ends up looking like, the Olympics remain the pinnacle for almost every athlete who will be there. And you never know, maybe these extraordinary circumstances will make this summer’s Games even more special.


THE phenomenon of virtual competition was something that blew up in 2020. With no sporting events unaffected by the pandemic, and many cancelled altogether, it was left to organisers to use their imagination if they wanted to continue with their event in any capacity.

Last year saw a number of high-profile virtual events, such as the Manchester Virtual Road Race in November, which included runners from across the globe and was won by Scotland’s own Eilish McColgan, as well as the cycling eSports World Championships last month.

Last March, few would have believed that come the new year, we would still be putting the date of virtual events in our diaries, but the first virtual event of the year in Scotland, this week’s Lindsays Virtual Road Challenge, highlights just how affected the sporting calendar has been.

Similarly, the lack of crowds at sporting fixtures has sucked the atmosphere from events across the world.

Let’s hope 2021 sees sport return to something resembling normal. There is, it seems, light at the end of the tunnel, but 2020 has shown that while sport may be inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, its absence leaves a gaping hole in many people’s lives.