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Fears of a widening Olympic wealth hole as Pacific international locations wrestle to organize athletes for Tokyo

How do you practice for the Olympics whereas caught in an condo by your self?

That was the problem dealing with judoka Kinaua Biribo from the Pacific nation of Kiribati whereas getting ready for the Tokyo Video games.

Stranded overseas due to the pandemic – first in Japan, then Russia and Hungary – her coach has needed to information her judo exercises through Zoom.

“Proper now, I haven’t got anybody to coach with,” Biribo stated, chatting with the ABC from her condo in Budapest.

She is because of catch a flight to Japan later at this time.

“It is actually exhausting for me as a result of in this sort of sport you do want somebody to play with.”

Biribo is new to judo, having solely picked up the game two years in the past. She is the primary individual from Kiribati to compete within the martial artwork on the Olympics.

Whereas ready for her second vaccination dose, she has been unable to go to the health club and packs a suitcase stuffed with books to make use of as weights as an alternative.

“It is a huge problem for me being away from household,” Biribo stated.

“I am not gonna give up … particularly to show to the ladies again dwelling that they’ll do something.”

Kinaua Birino judo
Kinaua Birino first got here to Budapest to compete within the World Judo Championships.(



Biribo is among the fortunate ones.

Kiribati has determined to solely ship athletes who’ve been abroad all through the pandemic to this yr’s Olympics, amid fears its rivals would possibly carry the COVID-19 virus again dwelling.

Tenoa Betene, the secretary-general of the i-Kiribati Nationwide Olympic Committee, stated COVID-19 has introduced a significant hurdle for his or her nationwide crew.

“For us to rearrange journey and these sort of logistics, it is actually a headache.”

Greater than 11,000 athletes will compete on the Olympic Video games in Tokyo – roughly the identical variety of folks anticipated when the Video games have been postponed due to the pandemic.

The Worldwide Olympic Committee has introduced an help bundle of as much as $USD150 million ($201 million) to handle the impacts of COVID-19 and allow collaborating organisations to “proceed their sports activities, their actions and their help to their athletes”.

However with issues concerning the COVID-19 pandemic’s impression on creating international locations, there are fears the hole between richer and poorer nations will probably be even wider at this yr’s Video games.

Samoa has withdrawn its three-member weightlifting crew from the Olympics as a result of all of them are primarily based in Samoa and the federal government is anxious concerning the unfold of COVID-19 in Japan.

Eight Samoan athletes who’re primarily based abroad will nonetheless compete.

Tonga will ship six rivals – most of whom are primarily based abroad.

Men in green sports outfits hold up medals around neck and smile to the left of frame.
Fiji rugby gamers showcase their gold medals on the 2016 Summer season Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.(

AP: Robert F. Bukaty


As a consequence of new COVID restrictions in Asia, members of Fiji’s Olympic crew have been compelled to make last-minute plans. 

Based on the Related Press, 51 Fijian athletes and officers arrived in Tokyo on a freight flight that was additionally hauling frozen fish.

‘Weirdest preparation’ forward of Video games

Woman and man wearing masks on bus seats, man gives thumbs up to camera.
Fijian swimmers Cheyenne Rova and Taichi Vakasama have been allowed to take COVID-safe bus excursions whereas in quarantine in Japan.(



Athletes from richer and extra populous nations are inclined to do higher on the Olympics, with the highest of the medal tally board on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Video games dominated by high-income international locations.

In distinction, Pacific nations have gained solely a handful of Olympic medals and most international locations would not have the sources to dedicate to nationwide sports activities groups or specialised coaching amenities.

As an alternative, Pacific athletes depend on help from international locations like Australia, New Zealand and France to qualify for worldwide tournaments or entry elite amenities.

However the COVID-19 pandemic has made journey to those international locations over the previous yr extremely troublesome, forcing some Olympic hopefuls to coach in rudimentary home centres.

An outdoor swimming pool.
This yard pool has been Cheyenne Rova’s coaching base throughout Fiji’s lockdown.(



Cheyenne Rova, a bodily and well being schooling instructor from Fiji who will probably be competing in freestyle on the Olympics, has been coaching in her yard pool to beat lockdowns and a rising COVID-19 outbreak in her dwelling nation.

She stated Olympic swimmers in the US, Australia and different “greater international locations” had entry to extra tailor-made help, together with devoted sports activities psychologists and physiotherapists not out there in Fiji.

Rova, together with greater than 100 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from the Pacific, has acquired help from the Australian authorities in preparation for Tokyo.


She has just lately been capable of practice in Sydney via the initiative, which has additionally helped different Pacific athletes coordinate their Olympic coaching and qualification schedules over the previous month.

Mr Betene from Kiribati stated the help was integral for the Pacific Olympians since lots of them would have struggled to attend qualifying matches in any other case.

“Generally it is attending to the purpose the place now we have to talk with them simply to maintain their morale up as a result of they’ve been so remoted.”

However he stated regardless of the challenges, he’s glad that Kiribati can ship a small cohort of three athletes to Tokyo.

“The precedence now could be the athletes, nothing extra, nothing much less,” Mr Betene stated.

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