By Amy Tennery
ATLANTA (Reuters) – Aspring Olympians at the U.S. marathon trials said on Thursday that they were concerned first with securing one of the coveted few tickets to Tokyo 2020 – and less, at least for now, about whether there would even be an Olympics this year.
Numerous international sports events have been hit by the outbreak of a new coronavirus, with about 80,000 people infected, the vast majority in China, raising concern over the upcoming Games in Japan.
“I don’t have coronavirus at the moment and I hope it stays that way,” Scott Fauble told reporters.
Fauble is one of the most promising competitors in the men’s field. His Olympic dreams proved tantalizingly out of grasp in 2016, when he came in fourth in the 10,000-metres at the Olympic Track and Field trials.
“I’m not like an infectious disease expert and I try to be educated, I try to listen to podcasts, read articles about it,” said Fauble. “But me worrying about what the coronavirus does in six months doesn’t really help me on Saturday.”
On Thursday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told members of the Japanese media that the IOC was “fully committed” to holding the Games on schedule.
Team USA said in a written statement this week that it was “100% focused on maintaining our high standards of Games preparedness,” but acknowledged the recent uptick in “precautionary positions taken in both Japan and Korea over the past three days – along with confirmations of additional outbreaks in Italy and Iran.”
“We don’t yet know the full impact of the new developments on Team USA athletes and staff,” the team said.
In Atlanta, runners said they were spending the precious few moments of downtime before Saturday’s competition focused on strategy and rest, and not on the headlines.
“People are certainly being more cautious in how they are tending to having their hands washed and staying away from germs and just trying to make sure they’re not getting sick,” said Kellyn Taylor, who is in contention for one of the U.S. team’s three spots with the fourth-fastest qualifying team headed into the weekend.
“There is a significant barrier to be covered in order to just make the team,” said Jake Riley, who clocked the fastest time by an American at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.
“It’s there, in the back of my mind but I’m trying not to think about it too much.”
Organizers for the Tokyo Marathon, which is also scheduled to take place this weekend, have decided to bar all but the race’s elite field from participation, citing health concerns.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Robert Birsel)