Australian Commonwealth Games team chef de mission Petria Thomas believes 2022 will provide an unprecedented opportunity for Australian athletes and their sports to shine on the world stage and in the eyes of the Australian public.
After the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees made history when they postponed the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021 due to the COVID-19 global health crisis, the decision was bound to set off a domino effect for the sports world.
The ripple effects have started to materialise as sport governing bodies have recently announced the rescheduled dates of 2021 world championships and other international competitions.
Events moved from 2021 to 2022 include the FINA Swimming World Championships to May 2022, the World Athletics Championships to 1 July, the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships to June, the World Para Athletics Championships in August-September, and the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong in September 18-25.
And no doubt there will be more sports to follow.
Dates confirmed for World Athletics Championships Oregon 2022.
15-24 July 2022
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) April 8, 2020
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set for 27 July-7 August, Thomas sees the schedule as a “bumper year of sport”.
“With the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021, there was always going to be a domino effect of rescheduling world sport,” Thomas said.
“2022 is certainly going to be a bumper year of sport and there is going to be a unique set of opportunities for our athletes to compete on the world stage.
“There is going to be a lot of action and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are right smack bang in the middle of it.”
Thomas believes our athletes will not only adjust to the schedule changes but thrive with the unique challenges and opportunities the situation has presented.
We are pleased to announce that the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka (JPN) will take place from May 13-29, 2022 and the FINA World Masters Championships from May 31-June 9, 2022, across the island of Kyushu (JPN). https://t.co/NZSO1tBHrJ#Fukuoka2022 #waterisourworld pic.twitter.com/53OeBaifQp
— FINA (@fina1908) May 4, 2020
“While it is highly disappointing the Tokyo Games are not going ahead this year, and while it has been a challenging time for athletes… there is going to be a lot of opportunities for athletes to compete on the world stage hopefully next year and in 2022,” Thomas said.
“I used to love competition… that’s what I did it all for…. I didn’t particularly enjoy the training aspect of it all.
“To have a number of elite competitions in a short period of time is really exciting, you do all the hard work and training in the lead up and then competition is where you get to show what the training has produced.”
ICYMI: Kobe World Championships rescheduled to 2022!
"Kobe 2022 will be the first major Para sport competition in Japan after the Paralympics and will continue the legacy of the Games in the country."
— Para Athletics (at 🏡) (@ParaAthletics) May 4, 2020
Thomas, who works within the high performance department of Gymnastics Australia, has seen firsthand how the COVID-19 shutdown has impacted athletes but sympathises with all athletes, coaches, administrators and all of those crucial to sport at all levels who have been severely impacted by the global pandemic.
She has been heartened by how athletes have responded and adapted to the challenges they are facing.
“This has been a really challenging period, it’s not just athletes who have been affected, but for everyone, and not just in Australia but it is happening around the world,” Thomas said.
“We have been fortunate in Australia, as we have been able to control the virus really well.
“But for sports like gymnastics and swimming, these are athletes who need to be in the gym on the apparatus or in the pool to practice… so having these facilities closed has meant some sports have been challenged.
“It’s great to see how athletes have been quite creative about how they’ve adapted their training [while being at home].
“I’m sure athletes will be chewing at the bit to get back out there and start competing again…. one thing I’m sure of is our athlete’s resilience is going to be higher because of this situation.”
The situation has seen Thomas challenged in elements of the role, recalling her athlete roots, where she had to overcome numerous setbacks and injuries on her way to winning Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold, to help overcome and adapt to the situation.
“In July 2021, we would be in the right in the middle of the planning stage with a lot of our sports, when they will now be at the Tokyo 2021 Games, so we will need to adjust our own planning as we ramp up towards Birmingham,” Thomas said.
“This [COVID-19 situation] is going to develop the skills of not only our athletes but our coaches and our administrations, in their resilience but also in their adaptive skills to be able to manage these setbacks and changes.
“But I believe there is always a silver lining to every cloud if you look hard enough, and I believe this enhanced resilience and adaptability can be positives from what has been a major disruption to people’s lives.”