The Jamaican government will provide more than JMD$45 million in direct financial support to athletes preparing for this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Jamaica’s Kemba Nelson has designs on being in Tokyo for the Olympic Games this summer and based on what she has done so far at the University of Oregon she believes she has a good shot at it.

A berth at this year's summer Tokyo Olympic games is undoubtedly on the radar of Jamaica's top table tennis players, Simon Tomlinson and Kane Watson, who both continue to show impressive form at the international camp in Broward, Florida, where they are currently in training for the Olympic qualifiers later this month in Argentina.

Ever since COVID-19 took real effect on the Jamaican landscape around March 2020, the local sporting fraternity has taken a battering, with the vast majority of disciplines forced off the playground and their architects, the sportsmen and sportswomen, unable to parade their skills.

The 2021 Gibson/McCook Relays that was scheduled for March 27, have been cancelled.

The decision to cancel this year’s event was made at a meeting of the Gibson Relays Organizing Committee on Wednesday. They cited the “catastrophic rise” in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country in recent weeks.

Since its inaugural staging in 1973, the Relays were previously cancelled on four occasions - 1983, 1997, 1999 and 2002.

The news will be a blow to Jamaica’s track and field athletes many of whom are preparing for the Olympic Games in July as well as the Carifta Games and World U20 Championships in August as it follows on the heels of the Jamaican government’s decision to withdraw approval for the hosting of the Central Athletics Championships and Eastern Athletics Champions in the past few days.

The organizers said they are optimistic the Relays will resume next year.

“We look forward to hosting this event in 2022. Thanks to our many sponsors and other stakeholders for their continued support of this 48-year-old event which was planning its 45th staging.  Since its inaugural staging in 1973, the Relays were previously cancelled on four occasions (1983, 1997, 1999 and 2002).

“The Gibson McCook Relays Organizing Committee regret this decision but feel certain that fans of track and field in general and GMR fans will understand and support this decision.

“We would like to extend our condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones and we empathize with those who are suffering from COVID-19. We implore all Jamaicans to follow the necessary protocols in order to stay safe and finally, we encourage the taking of the vaccine which will help to prevent further spread and hasten our return to a level of normality.”

Juan Martin del Potro will undergo knee surgery for the fourth time but retains hope of playing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Del Potro, who was a career-high world number three in August 2018 and still in the top 10 fewer than two years ago, has not appeared on the ATP Tour since withdrawing from the Queen's Club Championships in 2019.

The 2009 US Open champion had his first procedure after falling at the tournament in London and another followed in January 2020.

The third operation came last August as pain persisted, but the issue still has not been eradicated.

However, Del Potro said in an Instagram post on Monday that the death of his father earlier this year had motivated him to continue pursuing a return to the court.

The 32-year-old, who won bronze for Argentina at the 2012 Olympics and silver four years later, will go under the knife again in Chicago on Tuesday.

"We've tried conservative therapy but the pain is still there," he wrote.

"[Doctor Jorge Chahla] knows I want to play tennis again and be able to play the Olympics, so we agreed that surgery should be done as soon as possible.

"Of course, these last few weeks weren't easy for me. Everything's so hard since my father's passing.

"But also, I feel the strength he sends me from above. I had this day in which I woke up and called the doctor. I knew I had to try again.

"I hope I can overcome this painful situation. I won't stop trying. Of course, your messages and best wishes are always welcomed. Thanks for the love."

Tokyo 2020 organisers have announced spectators will not be allowed to travel from overseas to watch the Olympic Games this year.

The measure has been taken as part of an effort to reduce the risks of COVID-19 spreading at the delayed Games.

The Games will run from July 23 to August 8, having been set back by a year due to the global health crisis.

Also affected will be the Paralympics, which runs from August 24 to September 5, with travelling spectators also barred from attending.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have been advised of Tokyo's decision and are said by Games chiefs to "respect and accept this conclusion".

In a statement issued on Twitter, Tokyo 2020 said: "Today, on March 20, we reported to the IOC and IPC that we would not accept overseas spectators to Japan in order to realise a safe and secure event.

"We will continue to do our utmost to make this summer's event a safe and secure event so that it will be a light of hope for people all over the world."

In a further statement, Tokyo 2020 organisers said tickets purchased by those planning to travel from abroad would be refunded.

They said the coronavirus situation within and beyond Japan "remains very challenging" and pointed to travel across borders being "severely restricted", meaning entry to Japan could not be guaranteed.

"In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said the Tokyo 2020 statement.

"This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public."

Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens wants to wrap up qualification for the Olympic heptathlon as soon as the outdoor season begins, but if she doesn’t, she is confident that there are other ways for her to get to Tokyo.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is planning to represent the United States at the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.

Coronavirus forced the 2020 Games to be postponed, with the Olympics now due to be held in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8 this year.

Despite a potentially congested schedule, with the Clippers contenders in the Western Conference and the NBA season set to finish on July 22 if the Finals go the distance, Leonard is ready to play for Team USA.

"My plan is to go," Leonard said on Sunday, ahead of the All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Gregg Popovich's Team USA are set to play their first game against France on July 25.

"If I feel up to it and feel ready to go around that time, then I'm going to play," Leonard said.

Leonard added: "A lot of people were in for 2020, but just the pandemic pretty much killed everything."

Team USA won the Gold Medal in 2016, defeating Serbia at the Rio De Janeiro Games almost five years ago in Brazil.

Jamaica’s Olympic-bound gymnast Danusia Francis believes her inclusion in Simone Biles’ Gold Over America Tour is another opportunity for her to highlight Jamaica’s gymnastics on an international stage.

Usain Bolt's one-time great rival Yohan Blake has declared he will refuse all COVID-19 vaccines, and would rather miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics than be immunised.

The Jamaican sprinter won silver in the 100 metres and 200m at London 2012, as Bolt landed gold in both races. Only Bolt has ever run faster than Blake over those distances.

Speaking on Saturday, Blake expressed his opposition to being given a vaccine.

The International Olympic Committee has indicated athletes will not need to be vaccinated before taking part in the Tokyo Games, but vice-president John Coates recently said it was "certainly being encouraged".

The Olympics, postponed from last year due to the coronavirus crisis, is due to run from July 23 to August 8.

Quoted by the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, Blake said: "My mind still stays strong, I don't want any vaccine, I'd rather miss the Olympics than take the vaccine, I am not taking it.

"I don't really want to get into it now, but I have my reasons."

Blake, who won 100m gold at the 2011 World Championships, is now 31 and Tokyo may be his last chance to shine on the Olympic stage.

He said in a video posted late on Saturday night: "Love me or dislike me, but I am here for a reason, to serve God, and at the same time be a servant for God to help each and every one.

"I am a righteous man, I am a man of God, and I believe that everybody do have a choice in life, no matter what. And I want to tell someone, don't let anyone take away that choice from you.

"At the end of the day if anything should happen, nobody's going to be by your side apart from God. No one is going to be there to hold your hand, it's going to be you.

"Follow your mind, don't follow the crowd. At the same time, be respectful to each and every one. Don't let no one take away your choice."

Jamaica has had 422 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, and 23,263 cases, the country's government announced on Saturday.

The country has yet to receive first shipments of a vaccine, but health minister Dr Christopher Tufton said on Friday they would "soon" arrive.

The Jamaica Olympic Association and the Olympians Association of Jamaica have paid tribute to Olympian Les Laing, who died on the weekend.

Laing, who was born in Linstead, St Catherine on February 19, 1925, represented Jamaica at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics was a member of the famed 4x400m relay team that won gold in Helsinki. He is the third member of the iconic quartet to have died leaving behind George Rhoden as the only surviving member.

Arthur Wint died in 1992 while Herb McKenley passed in 2007.

“The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) mourns the loss of a member of our household but celebrates the life he lived inspiringly on the track which mirrored the personality of this son of Linstead,” the JOA said in a statement released on Sunday.

“Leslie Alphonso Laing's feats as an Olympian are well documented and we salute him with grateful hands. But more importantly, it is the spirit of the gentlemen which has inspirited generations of athletes and earned the abiding respect of a nation.

“In a world where recorded statistics of sporting achievements are understandably cited in praise of men, the JOA reflects deeply and respectfully on Laing's self-sacrificial service to his country and the soul of his ground-breaking feet.”

Meanwhile, the OAJ described Laing as a hero.

OAJ President Marvin Anderson said he one of the nation's Olympic pioneers.

“Arthur Wint, Laing, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden set a world record 3 minutes 03.9 seconds to defeat a top-class US team at the Games in London,” Anderson said. "His heroic relay run of 47 seconds flat was all the more remarkable because he was a specialist 200-metres man."

Laing, Anderson said, leaves behind a substantial legacy from his days on the track.

“While many Jamaican track stars emerged from the US college circuit, the Linstead-native rose to prominence in Britain as a member of the Polytechnic Harriers Club in London. Fittingly, he made his Olympic debut in that city in 1948, placing sixth in the 200 metres final with McKenley fourth.

 “An injury to Wint in the 4x400 final prompted Laing and his teammates to vow to return and win four years later in Helsinki, Finland. Running faster in every round, Laing became the first Jamaican to reach an Olympic sprint final twice and improved his finish to fifth place. Despite his short stature, he delivered a stout-hearted second leg run to help Jamaica to fulfil the promise made in London.”

 Laing retired after a 1954 season when he narrowly missed taking the sprint double at the CAC Games in Mexico City where he won the 200 and took silver in the 100m.

Laing was recognized by the respected US publication TRACK AND FIELD NEWS, which listed him in its annual world rankings three times - at number 9 in 1948, number 10 in 1949 and at number 9 once more in 1953.

"His accomplishments paved the way for Jamaica in the sprints," Anderson said.

 “In fact, no other Jamaican would reach back-to-back Olympic 200m finals until Don Quarrie did it in 1976 and 1980. Mr Laing was a pioneer who showed us what was possible for us in the 200 and thanks to the start he provided, Jamaica has excelled in that event."

Laing was married to 1948 high jump finalist Carmen Phipps.

 

Leslie Alphonso "Les" Laing, a member of Jamaica’s gold medal-winning mile relay team at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki has died.

Olympic and World 400m champion Kirani James has revealed that while his Grave’s Disease is under control he is not yet certain when he will open his season despite the fact the Olympics are only six months away.

Anderson Peters, the 2019 World Championships javelin gold medalists believes it is well worth the risk travelling to Japan to compete at the Olympic Games this summer, despite the threat posed to his safety by the Covid-19 virus.

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