Two top young sporting talents from Barnsley believe the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from this year to next will work in their favour.
The games have been moved back until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sprinter Joe Ferguson, from Darton, and Dodworth karate star Lauren Fretwell are hoping to be there. Ferguson, who will turn 19 next month, recorded the second fastest 200m time in Europe for an under 20 last year.
He said: “My coach has told me that it’s a massive opportunity. I have a better shot at the Olympics now and it opens up a bunch of other stuff as well like the European Championships and other international events. With everything being condensed into one year, a lot of the top athletes will have to pick and choose which events they go to so there will be opportunities for other people like me.
“The British Championships have been rescheduled for August so, if that goes ahead, I will look to compete there. Some of the current Olympians will skip it because it is the qualification for the Europeans not the Olympics. Hopefully I can compete for a medal and break onto the scene.”
Ferguson is still training regularly in the lockdown, having recovered from injuries and illness. He said: “I have just had to try to improvise a bit. Luckily, I have pretty much been able to stick to my training programme. We managed to put a small gym in our garden before the lockdown, so I can do all my strength and conditioning training there. I have been running in a local park. There is a rubberised track around the outside of the park that my spikes can fit into. I can run faster on there than I can on grass. There are a lot of people who are taking this time to sit back and relax whereas, if you train just as hard as before, you can hit the ground running when we compete again. I don’t want to waste a year.”
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Fretwell is hoping to be one of the first British people to compete in the Olympics in karate which will make its debut in Tokyo. She said: “It’s definitely better for me that it is in 2021. It’s sad that the Olympics has been moved but safety comes first. It gives me an extra year to improve and make everything better. It’s worked out well for me.
“It’s still not clear how the qualifying will work, I think there will probably be some qualifying tournaments with ranking points. I will be giving everything I have got to be on that team. There’s also a World Championships in Brazil in November which hasn’t been cancelled yet. I am not convinced it will go ahead but hopefully it does and I can compete in it.”
Lauren is currently resting a shoulder injury. She said: “I was supposed to have an MRI scan the week that everything stopped so it has been put on hold. “I am still just taking painkillers. “The lockdown has given me a chance to rest it so it’s not as bad as it was. “I will need to get it sorted out in the future.”
During the lockdown, Lauren has been helping friends and family in Dodworth while still completing her degree at the University of Nottingham. She said: “I have been helping people in my area if they need me to, like cutting people’s grass. It’s mainly family friends and people that I know. “I still have a lot of uni work to do. Training is going OK, it’s more difficult because I can’t go to a gym with the proper floor and space but I am keeping my fitness up and doing some routines.”