When the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021 earlier this week, thousands of athletes around the world who had already qualified for the Games were left to wonder if they would have to re-earn their spots.
The International Olympic Committee offered some reassuring news for those athletes Friday.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams confirmed in a text message to USA TODAY Sports that qualified athletes will keep their spots and not have to re-qualify, providing clarity on one of the most significant issues amid the fallout of the Olympic postponement.
Reuters first reported the news Friday.
The IOC and Japanese officials announced Tuesday that they had agreed to postpone the Games to the spring or summer of 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the first time in modern Olympic history that the Games have been postponed. The decision prompted questions about the logistical hurdles and economic ramifications of such a move, but also confusion about qualifying.
Earlier this month, the IOC had announced that it would work with international governing bodies to adjust Olympic qualifying procedures while ensuring that those who had already qualified would retain their spots. But the postponement news created a new wave of concerns about whether those earlier statements would hold true.
“For our ranked athletes, this is the single biggest stressor – the fear they may have to fight again for what they have already earned,” USA Weightlifting chief executive officer Phil Andrews said in a statement Tuesday after the Games were postponed.
The IOC has said that 57% of the roughly 11,000 allocated spots at the Tokyo Games have been clinched, meaning that more than 6,000 athletes have already booked their tickets to the Games. This includes 74 Americans in 14 sports, ranging from fencing and marathon running to table tennis and surfing.
Other sports have qualified spots, but individual nations still need to assign them, whether it be through trials (track and field, swimming and gymnastics) or point compilation (weightlifting).
Contributing: Nancy Armour
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.