The head coach of Canada’s senior women’s basketball team is disappointed her squad won’t be competing on the world’s biggest stage this summer — but Lisa Thomaidis believes that pulling out of the Olympic Games is the right call.
“Over the last couple days it became very clear that it was the only decision,” said Saskatoon-based Thomaidis, also the head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team.
While she said it’s disappointing not to be headed to the Olympics in the summer, “there are far greater things right now that we need to be directing our energy and our resources towards.”
The COC and its counterpart, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, issued a joint statement March 22 explaining that due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the country would not be sending a team to the 2020 Games, which are set to open July 24 in Tokyo.
The statement also urges the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the World Health Organization to postpone the Games for one year to allow the pandemic to subside.
The International Olympic Committee had previously maintained that the Games would go ahead as planned. However, it, too, has now conceded that a decision on their future will have to be made in fairly short order.
In a March 22 news release, the IOC says those discussions will be finalized within the next four weeks. While cancelling the Games is “not on the agenda,” the release states a number of other scenarios will be considered, including postponement.
Of the COC and CPC decision not to partake, Thomaidis said it’s good to have clarity, especially for athletes who are facing major training challenges due to the numerous restrictions and closures around the world to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“They’re doing push-ups with their bed and they’re running up and down their stairs and doing agility workouts with things in their house,” Thomaidis said.
“It’s just not fair and it doesn’t help anyone to drag this out any longer.”
While the women’s basketball team had already qualified for Tokyo, many other teams and athletes were still preparing for their qualification events.
“How do you possibly prepare and think that you’re gonna be at your best to try to qualify for the biggest competition in your life?” Thomaidis said. “I think for a lot of athletes it was highly stressful.”
The coach acknowledges that if the Games are postponed until 2021, her team will look a bit different.
“You don’t have an infinite amount of time to be an athlete at the highest level and to be playing at your peak level,” Thomaidis said. “In another year’s time, who knows what our team will look like?
“It’ll have a negative impact on some and potentially, some positive for some others — so we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it,” she said.
“Hopefully, we’ve got our spot reserved so when we are able to compete we’ll be there and we’ll be at the top of our game as best we can be.”