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2021 Tokyo Olympics to symbolise pandemic end, despite billion-dollar postponement costs


Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he will “spare no effort” to ensure a safe and secure Tokyo Olympic Games to show the world that humanity has defeated the COVID-19 pandemic.

His comments come as organisers revealed postponing the Games until next year would cost the Japanese economy an additional 294 billion yen ($3.8 billion).

“I expressed my strong determination to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of next year as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic,” Mr Suga said during a video speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

Organisers have been assessing the financial impact of the delay since the Japanese Government and International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided in March to postpone the Games until 2021.

The IOC has previously said it will contribute $874 million towards covering postponement costs.

This was in addition to the costs announced by Japanese organisers.

“Tokyo’s costs are Tokyo’s costs,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.

“Tokyo 2020’s [allocation] is revenue that we can secure.

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“Within this revenue we have additional sponsorship that we have requested from partners and we also have insurance.”

Tokyo 2020 is also falling back on a contingency fund of $350 million, which was detailed in last year’s budget to cover costs.

The last official budget given by the organising committee in December 2019, months before the Games were postponed, was $16.9 billion.

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori added that the IOC had agreed to waive any additional royalties accrued by new sponsorship deals secured by the organising committee.

Man with grey hair stands in profile in front of a microphone wearing a red mask.
Mr Mori has arranged a way to earn more from sponsorships as organisers reveal the extent of economic hit caused by delaying the Games.(AP: Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool)

“I had a video conference last night with IOC President Bach,” Mr Mori said.

“President Bach expressed his strong determination that the IOC and us should work as one team and cooperate to ensure the success of the Games.”

The Tokyo Olympic Games are to set open on July 23, followed by the Paralympic Games on August 24.

ABC/AP



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Andrew Bogut, NBA champion and Boomers veteran, announces retirement and ends Tokyo 2021 dream


The Boomers will chase an elusive Olympic medal next year without Andrew Bogut, after the NBA championship winner announced his retirement.

Bogut, 36, spent the last two seasons with the Sydney Kings and is one of the most decorated players in Australian basketball history.

On Tuesday, he called time on his career — “effective immediately” — with an announcement on his new podcast.

Bogut said injuries had ultimately ruined his shot at a fourth Olympics campaign, with the Tokyo Games postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I just can’t physically and mentally get to 2021 with the way the body has been,” Bogut said.

“I mean, I could, on a lot of painkillers and with a lot of physical and mental anguish, but it’s just not worth it at this point in my career.”

A male basketball players looks to his left as the ball bounces.
Andrew Bogut in action for Australia at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.(Reuters: Jason Lee)

Bogut, the NBA number one draft pick in 2005, spent 14 seasons in the United States and won a championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2015.

He returned to Australia in 2018 believing the softer NBL schedule would increase his chances of extending his career through to the Tokyo Olympics.

Bogut was named the NBL’s MVP in 2019 and led the Kings to a grand final last season while battling back and ankle injuries, which both required surgery this year.

Andrew Bogut and a horizontal LeBron James
Bogut played in three finals series with the Warriors, and won one of them.(Reuters: Ken Blaze)

“The last two years have been a real challenge for me just to get out of bed in the morning some days, let alone go to a training session or a game,” Bogut said.

“It was real challenging and the from the 2019-20 season that thread was completely frayed and in little pieces.

“It was real frustrating for me.”

AAP



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Tokyo Olympics can save lives, become a symbol of resilience after COVID-19, says IOC chief Thomas Bach


Officials in Victoria cannot reach agreement to let around 1,000 players, officials and support staff into the state for a January Australian Open start.

But, a world away, the G20 Leaders’ Summit closed with a message of support for the Tokyo Olympic Games, where it’s expected tens of thousands of people will gather next July.

The final declaration of the G20 Summit named the host cities of the next two Olympics as symbols of the world’s resilience in fighting the pandemic.

“As a symbol of humanity’s resilience and global unity in overcoming COVID-19, we commend Japan’s determination to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 next year,” the G20 Leaders joint statement read.

“We look forward to the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022,” it added.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach addressed the summit, invited by Saudi officials who are believed to be strengthening ties with the IOC ahead of a possible Olympic bid.

Bach said in his address that the Olympics “save lives”.

“During this coronavirus crisis, we all have seen how important sport is for physical and mental health,” he said.

“The World Health Organization has acknowledged this by signing a cooperation agreement with the IOC.

“Following this agreement, the UN, the WHO and the IOC launched a co-branded campaign called ‘Healthy Together’, rolling out projects internationally.”

Bach also said the IOC would play a role in a global pro-vaccination campaign.

“We have learned one important lesson from this crisis: we need more solidarity, more solidarity within societies and more solidarity among societies,” he said.

“These Olympic Games, with the participation of all 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, will send a strong message of solidarity, resilience and unity of humankind in all our diversity.”

A ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ or ‘a gamble’?

A view across a harbour in Tokyo, past blossom trees, with the Olympic rings in the distance.
The Tokyo Olympics were delayed by 12 months.(Reuters/USA TODAY Sports: Yukihito Taguchi)

During last week’s visit to Tokyo to inspect facilities and review the current contingency plans, Bach described the Games as a “light at the end of the tunnel”.

But the Japan Times newspaper has described the determination to push ahead with the Games amid so much uncertainty around the pandemic and access to a vaccine as “a gamble”.

Kenneth McElwain, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Sciences, told the paper that weighing the benefits of hosting the Games against the cost of cancelling them was a difficult prospect.



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Brian Goorjian announced to lead Boomers to Tokyo Olympics


Brian Goorjian has been announced as the man to lead the Australian men’s basketball team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The current coach of The Hawks in the National Basketball League (NBL) led the Boomers from 2001 to 2008, overseeing the team’s campaigns at the Athens and Beijing Olympics.

He recently moved back to Australia from China to coach the Wollongong-based NBL side, and takes over the national team from NBA coach Brett Brown, who recently announced his resignation without coaching a single game.

Goorjian said the potentially NBA-player-stacked Boomers team was ready to win a medal.

“There’s that small window a lot of times in sport where there’s an opportunity to do something great, and Andre [Lemanis, former Boomers coach] and Basketball Australia did a tremendous job to get this team to where it sits now,” he said.

“It’s a short window of nine months [until the Olympics], but it’s a very talented team, and one we’re all proud of.”

Brian Goorjian watches on as AJ Ogilvy shapes to shoot a basketball at Hawks training.
Brian Goorjian said working as a current NBL coach was crucial for him to accept the Boomers job.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Goorjian was the favourite to take over the national team given his prior experience in the job, along with his record as the most successful NBL coach of all time.

The Californian native played in the NBL, before forging a coaching career in the league that saw him win six championships between 1988 and 2009.

Basketball Australia general manager of high performance Jan Stirling said Goorjian beat a number of highly qualified Australian coaches for the role.

“We’re really excited by this appointment and in our country, we had a lot of high quality applicants, but Brian is a standout, not only for his domestic and international success, but also because he’s been on the Olympic stage with the Boomers.”

a male basketballer player jumps high to put ball in basket
Australians will be hoping Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons is available for selection at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. (AP: Winslow Townson)

NBA player availability will not affect medal chances

There is added interest in the Boomers’ Olympic campaign this time because Australia will field a side stacked with NBA talent, including 2016 number one draft pick Ben Simmons and league veterans Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Aaron Baynes.

However, if the 2020/21 NBA season is not finished in time for the Tokyo Olympics, it is likely those players will be unavailable.

Brian Goorjian said the depth of basketball talent in Australia meant the country was in a strong position to medal regardless of who was playing.

“If not and if it goes another direction, what the NBL and the domestic competition has done is incredible.

“We promote ourselves as being one of the best competitions in the world, so whatever way this thing swings, I feel good about our chances.”



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Tokyo Olympics faces problems over achieving a fair qualification system for athletes, says IOC


The coronavirus pandemic has made achieving fair athlete qualification for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games extremely difficult, International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) president Thomas Bach says.

At a news conference following the IOC’s monthly executive board meeting, Bach said 57 per cent of places have already been allocated, but that there were still many athletes around the world hoping to qualify for the remaining 43 per cent.

“For the remaining 43 per cent we still have to ensure a fair qualification system,” he said.

This is becoming more difficult for many sports, with the COVID-19 pandemic out of control in numerous countries and severe travel restrictions in many others.

Overnight, the World Wrestling Championships scheduled to take place in Serbia next month was cancelled.

Governing body, United World Wrestling (UWW), had set a target of at least eight of the top ten nations from last year’s event plus 70 per cent of athletes required to attend for the event to go ahead.

Those numbers could not be guaranteed.

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“The problem that the international federations are facing, and with them we are facing, that at this moment you would hardly find a place on this planet where you would have access for all the athletes from all the countries who want to participate,” Bach said.

“The international federations are looking very much into next spring (Australia’s autumn), [and] there are also different scenarios under consideration whether some of the so-called ‘world qualifications’ will have to be turned into more continental or regional qualifications.

“Or even in one of the other sports or disciplines the world ranking or other rankings must be used to have, and ensure, a fair qualification system — this has to happen from federation to federation.

“I can only tell you that all the international federations are working very hard on this and that they are really fully committed to ensure a fair qualification system for all their athletes.”

The IOC has not set a target for the number of nations or athletes who must attend but remain confident most of the 206 National Olympic Committees will send teams to Tokyo.

Thomas Bach gesturing while giving a speech.
IOC chief Thomas Bach says Olympic officials respect athletes’ decisions on whether to participate during the COVID-19 pandemic.(Reuters: Denis Balibouse, file photo)

“Our clear commitment is to make the participation possible for all the 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Team,” Bach said.

“If one athlete or the other does not want to participate for any reason, this is the individual decision of any athlete. We are respecting the athletes are free and must be free in their decisions.

“Given the very recent developments with regard to rapid testing and the vaccination, we are very confident we can offer a safe environment for all the athletes from all the National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee team.”

A one-day gymnastics event in Tokyo over the past weekend — featuring teams from Russia, China, the USA, as well as the host nation — provided a glimpse of hope as Olympic organisers prepare for a slow build towards next year’s Games.

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The pandemic has created financial issues for many National Olympic Committees.

The IOC has announced expansion of its Olympic Solidarity Fund by 16 per cent overall, and an increase of 25 five per cent for direct athlete support programs, taking the total to US$590 million ($811.1million).

Bach warned athletes would be required to be flexible they prepare for the Tokyo Games scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August 2021.

“They are not in a situation like you would (normally) be nine months before the Olympic Games where you can plan your period of training and competition, and you can determine when you want to peak,” he said.

“All this, unfortunately, is not easy but it’s the same challenge for all the athletes of the world.

“We could also see in the meeting with the Athletes’ Commission today that the athletes are really understanding this situation — of course they are not extremely happy about this but they accept it and they know that they need to have this flexibility in order to ensure a fair qualification and in order to ensure the safe organisation of the Games.”

Next week the IOC President will fly to Tokyo to meet with Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, and Olympic organisers.

When asked whether cancellation of the Games would be discussed Mr Bach replied: “No.” 



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Tokyo Olympics organisers outline plans to protect Games participants from coronavirus


Tokyo Olympic organisers will require athletes to submit to a COVID-19 test before and on arrival in Japan as part of proposed coronavirus countermeasures to protect those at the delayed Games.

Japanese athletes and other participants living in Japan will face the same requirements, according to the draft measures, which are still being discussed.

Organisers say they are yet to make a decision on spectator numbers or whether athletes will be kept in a bubble away from members of the public.

“Athletes should be protected, and by contacting the public the athletes might spread COVID-19 — that is a possibility,” Tokyo2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.

Mr Muto said he hoped there would be more concrete plans in place by mid-December, but there were still many discussions that needed to be had with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), international sporting federations and national Olympic committees.

The IOC’s coordination commission will be held remotely on Thursday, with the draft measures certain to make for some challenging negotiations.

A serious looking Tokyo Olympics executive sits in front of microphones during a press conference.
Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee CEO Toshiro Muto hopes firmer plans will be in place by mid-December.(AP/Pool photo: Issei Kato)

No decision has been made on how many tests athletes will have to undertake while in Japan or in the Olympic and Paralympic Village.

Under the proposal, athletes will not have to undergo a two-week quarantine period but they will have to submit an activity plan indicating their proposed destinations, such as competition and training venues, and how they will get there.

“It should be very difficult — it’s not realistic for us to consider not using public transportation by athletes because they will have to go to regional areas, they might have to use public transportation,” Mr Muto said.

The draft countermeasures from Games organisers were discussed with members of the Japanese Government and the local Government this afternoon.

In June, Toshiro Muto warned: “The Games will not be a grand splendour but will be a simplified Games.”

Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, held a call with IOC president Thomas Bach, with both reiterating their hopes the Games would go ahead safely and securely.

Mr Bach said earlier in the day the recent staging of various sporting events around the world should provide confidence the Games would go ahead next summer.

Many difficult questions remain for Games organisers.

The Japanese Government and the IOC took the unprecedented decision in March to postpone the Games, which were originally scheduled to begin in July.

Tokyo officials have said they intend to hold the Games in 2021 even if the pandemic has not eased substantially.

Five-time Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe said earlier this month he wanted the Games go ahead but was doubtful they could without a coronavirus vaccine.

“So let’s put that into perspective and, if we haven’t got a treatment or a vaccine for COVID, the Olympics will possibly not go ahead.”

The IOC’s coordination commission chair John Coates said he did not believe a vaccine would be needed for the Games to go ahead.



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Tokyo 2020 Olympics was meant to start today — here’s what athletes are doing instead


Friday July 24 was meant to mark the beginning of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic the event has been rescheduled for July 2021.

So, on the day they were meant to be preparing for their events in Japan, what are Australian athletes doing instead?

We spoke to four competitors from across the country to find out.

‘Nightmare scenario’

A woman in her 40s runs in front of greenery on a gravel path.
Marathon runner Sinead Diver is balancing Olympics training with her kids’ remote learning and fulltime work.(Supplied: Riley Wolff from Tempo Journal)

Sinead Diver’s path to the Olympics was anything but orthodox.

The 43-year-old marathon runner took up running at the age of 33 to get fit following the birth of her two children.

After playing amateur basketball for years, the Melbourne resident found running easier to fit in around work and family commitments.

It was when Diver joined a running group she realised she was good enough to compete.

Tokyo 2020 would have been her first Olympic Games.

“It’s difficult to deal with, knowing that we should be in Japan now,” she said.

“Instead we are in lockdown, in a bit of a nightmare scenario with homeschooling.

Alongside her partner, Diver has been trying to juggle a fulltime job in IT, training and looking after her boys.

With future travel restrictions and the race calendar uncertain, Diver and her team have reduced the intensity of training.

She is aiming to compete in the London Marathon in October, and is really hoping Tokyo goes ahead this time next year.

Extra room for growth

A young woman in green and gold digs a volleyball.
Australia’s Taliqua Clancy is hoping for a medal in the Olympic beach volleyball competition next year.(AP: Petr David Josek)

Taliqua Clancy, 28, is Australia’s first Indigenous Olympian in beach volleyball.

She may not be in Tokyo today, but she will be with her fellow athletes.

“We will be going into the Queensland Academy of Sport — they are having a breakfast to mark the occasion of one year out,” she said.

Along with her partner Mariafe Artacho del Solar, Clancy is at the top of her game.

They took home the silver medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and stand a good chance of finishing on the podium in Tokyo.

“We still feel very confident we can get a medal,” Clancy said.

When coronavirus first hit, tournaments were called off and training altered dramatically.

“We all had our own home gyms and we would Zoom call in, in the beginning,” she said.

Now things are pretty much back to normal, and Ms Clancy has her “fingers crossed” the Games can go ahead in July 2021.

“There is nothing better than when you are around the Australian team all in green and gold.”

“The goalposts have moved, but the goal remains the same.”

Third seed working from home

A young man eyes a pig pong ball.
When David Powell isn’t representing Australia playing table tennis, he is teaching mathematics in Melbourne.(ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)

This Friday David Powell, 29, will be at home in Melbourne teaching mathematics to a class of year 8 students using Zoom, rather than gearing up to compete in table tennis.

“I should have been marching into the stadium for the Opening Ceremony,” Mr Powell said.

Powell has been playing table tennis since he was eight, and now ranks Australia’s third best player.

His first major event was the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Despite coronavirus restrictions and full time work, Mr Powell is still training four to five times a week on top of conditioning.

“I’ve always had to manage full time work with playing, not just the major competitions but the other competitions as well,” he said.

Although 2020 has thrown him a number of “curveballs” in both his teaching and table tennis careers, Mr Powell says he has been able to adapt.

This time next year he hopes instead of students watching him teach, they will be watching him compete for Australia.

“The school has quite a strong history of being good at table tennis,” he said.

‘Not how it was meant to go’

Female hockey player in green and gold Australia uniform bends over to hit a white ball with a wooden hockey stick.
Australian hockey player Edwina Bone will be training with some of her team in Perth this Friday.(Supplied: Hockey Australia)

Today Edwina Bone thought she would be in Tokyo watching the Opening Ceremony with her teammates before going to bed early in preparation for their first match against Spain on Saturday.

Instead the Hockeyroos defender will be up early for team training in Perth, before going to work out at the gym and having dinner at home with her husband.

“This was not how this year was meant to go,” she said.

Even with COVID-19 spreading, the 29-year-old didn’t think the Olympics would be delayed.

“I was in shock, and a bit relieved they weren’t completely cancelled,” she said.

After debuting with the Hockeyroos in 2013 and joining them for the Rio Games, Bone was planning to retire after the Olympics this July.

Now she is hoping she can continue playing and make the squad next year.

“We are very lucky here, we can still keep training, we have weekly matches,” she said.

Despite the initial shock and disappointment Bone, who is at Edith Cowan University, can see some positives.

“As much as it sucks that Tokyo didn’t go ahead, it was good because I got to go into a school and do my first placement,” she said.



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Olympic hopefuls continue to train as original start date of postponed Tokyo 2020 event ticks over


Athletes across Australia are training instead of competing today with July 24 marking what would have been the first day of the 2020 Olympics.

The event, set to be held in Tokyo, was postponed by a full year due to the pandemic.

But the Australian Olympic Committee has said all athletes that were locked in for the 2020 games will not have to re-qualify for 2021.

The world’s best trap shooter and Olympian James Willet said while the postponement was unfortunate, a full cancellation would have been more disappointing.

“It gives us another year to try and prepare and work towards being the best that we can in 12 months time,” he said.

The world number one lives at Mulwala on the NSW-Victoria border, where life has been drastically impacted by tight restrictions to prevent the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne from moving north.

But Willett said he was lucky to able to train on his property.

“We’re just trying to train at home and stay locally while all of this is going on.

“Hopefully things start to improve and we can get back to competing domestically, and then see what happens internationally from next year onwards.”

Queensland triathlete Kerry Morris had not yet qualified for an Olympic team when the pandemic hit, but was hopeful of making the Irish team.

Woman wearing a black and green triathlon suit runs on a road
Queenslander Kerry Morris was hoping to represent Ireland as an Olympic triathlete.(Supplied: Kerry Morris)

“When I had my [back injury] accident I realised that qualifying for Australia would be taken off the table because there’s a very high level of athlete in Australia,” she said.

“It was a bit easier for me to get a start and get points for the Olympics if I was wearing my Irish colours.”

Morris recently competed in China alongside reigning and former world champions in her attempt to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

Sights set on 2021 and beyond

Morris said it will be tough to keep her training up to make the next Olympics, whether it was next year or four years time.

But she will be doing everything she can to qualify.

If the 2021 Olympics are ultimately cancelled, Willett said he would also be aiming to be there in four years.

“I’ll aim to be in Paris in 2024 and do everything I can to prepare for that,” he said.

“The four years cycle isn’t going to look the same as it has done previously. There’s going to be a lot of challenges.”



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The drive behind climber Tom O’Halloran’s quest to represent Australia at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics


Tom O’Halloran is in his natural place. In his natural state.

On an overhanging rock in Sydney’s west called Jessica’s, his left arm is stretched up hooking onto a tiny ledge, white with chalk dust. His right is bent by his side, a few fingers clinging to the tiniest of holds. His legs are dangling, bent, less than a metre above the ground.

With all his weight through his arms, O’Halloran swings his legs up and to the left vertically above his head. He hooks his toes onto a higher ledge, his body contorted upside down in the form of an ‘L’.

His left hand moves up to take a hold where his feet have hooked on, then his right arm.

Now, he can let his feet go down and dangle again. Once more, his feet swing up and now he has hoisted himself up to the top of the rock.

“Ah sick,” O’Halloran shouts.

“Yeeeeesss!”

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It is the exaltation of a man driven to take on a challenge and succeed. The rest of the world is irrelevant, like an artist who creates for their own satisfaction with no thoughts of an audience.

Tom O’Halloran is 27. He stands five feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 67 kilograms. Wiry and strong. Not an ounce of fat on him.

“I am an outdoor climber,” O’Halloran said.

Home for O’Halloran is the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and a tight-knit circle of fellow travellers who have congregated around the mecca of Australia’s climbing world.

“It’s a way of life,” he said.

A video on O’Halloran’s YouTube channel shows him swearing in frustration as he tries and repeatedly fails a complicated and physically demanding move.

It is overcoming those obstacles that drive him and bring a glint to his eye.

“The thing that totally inspires me is taking on a challenge that seems like it’s not going to make it, that I’ve got to rise up and find something new,” O’Halloran said.

That love of a challenge is being put to a new test. As one of Australia’s highest-ranked climbers, he is aiming to become the first man selected to compete for Australia in the new Olympic event of sport climbing at next year’s postponed Tokyo Games.

A man hangs by one arm from a colourful indoor rock climbing wall.
O’Halloran began rock climbing as a sport during his childhood.(ABC News: Daniel Irvine)

It has been a year of challenges.

In March, the selection trials for the Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and in the same week O’Halloran lost his job on the maintenance team at a Blue Mountains tourist attraction and got put on JobKeeper payments.

“It was like, ‘wow’, I’m not sure there’s going to be too many weeks in my life where everything just gets upended,” he said.

“The sporting achievement that you’ve been trying to drive for, for so long is just totally evaporated and your work is just gone.”

It meant putting on hold a lifelong dream. There was some relief to have more time, but also “a little bit of anger and sadness”.

When O’Halloran found his calling

It was a journey that began when O’Halloran was 12 years old. He was a sport-mad kid and his parents gave him the option of having a birthday party or joining the kids’ club program at his local Brisbane climbing gym.

He chose the gym and was hooked. He had found his sport and his calling.

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After finishing school, he had an epiphany on a climbing trip in South Africa and decided the pursuit needed “to be a central point of my life”.

“I got home and three months later had saved up enough money to pack everything into my old Volvo and drive 12 hours from Brisbane down to the Blue Mountains,” he said.

“Suddenly I found my partner and we had a baby and bought a house and here we are after a nearly a decade of living in the Blue Mountains.”

Along the way there was even a brief segue into the world of reality TV where he appeared for two seasons on Australian Ninja Warrior, making the grand final in the second season.

“The whole TV experience was pretty full on,” O’Halloran said.

“We’re a bit of a quiet bunch us climbers. The night after we were on, we were down at a shopping centre in Sydney and we got recognised in the change room changing our daughter’s nappy and that was pretty full-on and strange.”

Now the self-confessed “outdoor climber” is working almost exclusively indoors to achieve his Olympic dream.

The new Olympic sport of rock climbing combines three disciplines: speed climbing (as fast as you can go up a 15-metre vertical wall), bouldering (solving “problems” on fixed routes in a given time frame) and lead (climbing as high as possible on a 15-metre wall in a given time).

It is a very different to the methodical approach O’Halloran takes to climbing outdoors.

“In competition you have to show up on the day no matter what’s happening in the world and you need to be at your best at that moment,” he said.

Commitment the key to sport climbing

O’Halloran’s partner Amanda Watts, who is also a competitive and top-ranked climber, has put her ambitions on hold to help O’Halloran achieve his goals.

Watts describes a typical day prior to the pandemic.

“He’d get up at 4:30 in the morning so he could be at the gym by 4:45,” she said.

“He’d train until 6:30, go straight to work at 7:00. Work a 10-hour day. Come home, have a snack, hang out with Audrey [their six-year-old daughter] and I and then go back to the gym for another two-hour session.

“Get home probably about 8:30, have dinner [and] go to sleep.”

The partner of Tom O'Halloran ulls on ropes at a training session.
O’Halloran’s partner Amanda Watts has put her career on hold to support his ambitions.(ABC: Daniel Irvine)

The long days were a product of trying to work and train for a sport with no government funding.

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O’Halloran admits to some envy when he compares himself to the rock stars of the Australian Olympic movement, who are funded to train full-time.

“It’s hard to not look at some of those fully professional athletes that are getting all the money and the opportunities with a little bit of jealousy perhaps,” he said.

No job, no funding

But O’Halloran does have more time to devote to getting that one spot and that is what keeps him going — the thought of fulfilling a dream that began as a child when he watched the opening ceremony at the 2000 Sydney Olympics on TV.

“Whenever I kind of sit there and really think about it … it almost makes you teary,” O’Halloran said with some emotion.

“To have the opportunity to realise that dream is pretty incredible, and not something that I ever thought was going to happen.”

O’Halloran joked he may become too emotional should he realise his goal of competing at the Olympics.

“I think they might need to put me on an IV drip to replace the amount of fluids with the amount of crying I might do if I took that spot,” O’Halloran laughed.

The postponed Tokyo Olympics are due to start in a year, but still have a massive question mark hanging over them because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

O’Halloran knows it.

“With everything that’s going on it’s about adapting and trying to remain positive,” he said.

“It’s something that no matter what’s going on in the world with all the conflict and … it really is a moment of pause amongst the chaos. It brings us together and gives us purpose.”



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Jacco Verhaeren steps down as Swimming Australia’s coach ahead of 2021 Tokyo Olympics


Jacco Verhaeren has stepped down as Swimming Australia’s head coach after announcing he will return to the Netherlands for personal reasons.

Rohan Taylor will take over as head coach, with Verhaeren having served in the role since late 2013.

Verhaeren had been set to cut ties with Swimming Australia after his contract expired following the Tokyo Olympics.

But after the Olympics were postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus, Verhaeren said he had made the tough decision to depart in September with his family.

Verhaeren, a former Dutch national head coach who inspired the likes of Olympic champions Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn, revitalised Australian swimming after taking over as Dolphins head coach.

Given the reins after a disastrous 2012 London Olympic campaign in the pool, he twice steered Australia to the world number two ranking behind the United States at the 2015 and 2019 world championships.

“I tried to look for ways to extend [my contract], but you can’t compromise in a high-performance environment, nor did I want to compromise my family,” Verhaeren said in a statement.

Taylor, the former coach of three-time Olympic gold medallist Leisel Jones, takes over the top job after working under Verhaeren in a number of campaigns as the Dolphins team’s coach leader.

Cate Campbell, in her full swim gear, stands near coach Jacco Verhaeren
Verhaeren (left) was set to leave his post after the Tokyo Olympics before they were postponed.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Verhaeren said he would spend his remaining time in Australia supporting Taylor through a “transition phase”.

“I want to congratulate Rohan, who I believe is a great appointment, and wish him and the team all the best for next year and beyond,” he said.

Taylor, currently state head coach for Victoria and Tasmania, said he was confident of leading Australia to success in the Tokyo pool.

“Jacco has laid the groundwork for our Olympic campaign and I have worked closely with him and our Olympic leadership team,” he said.

Swimming Australia president John Bertrand said Verhaeren would leave with their blessing after taking the sport in the country to a “new level”.

“Jacco has left his indelible imprint on high performance swimming in this country,” he said.

“His constant search for new developments and his curiosity has taken our thinking to a new level.”

AAP/ABC



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