FILE PHOTO: The Australian Olympic and Paralympic swimwear uniform is unveiled in Sydney [Reuters]

Australia will take 472 athletes to the Tokyo Olympics, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) announced on Monday, the country’s second largest team for an overseas Summer Games.

 Some of the 254 women and 218 men who will compete in 33 sports are already in Japan making their final preparations for the Games, which were postponed for a year because of the global health crisis.

The new coronavirus has severely disrupted qualifying and Australia’s travelling contingent–second in size only to the 482 who went to Athens in 2004–might have been larger but for opportunities denied by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would like to pay tribute to those athletes for whom the postponement and global environment prevented them from being a part of this team,” said Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman.

“Whether that’s through injury and retirement, lack of safe access to qualification events or through difficult personal circumstances, many have been forced to make that tough call.

“I can promise these athletes that this team carries their legacy and their contributions in their hearts all the way to Tokyo and into the heat of Olympic competition.”

While only 51 indigenous Australians have represented the country over 28 previous Summer Games, tennis world number one Ash Barty headlines a record 16 Aboriginal athletes in the team for Tokyo.

Mary Hanna, 66, will become Australia’s oldest Olympic competitor, while her fellow equestrian athlete Andrew Hoy will be competing in a national record eighth Games at the age of 62.

Swimmer Mollie O’Callaghan, at 17, is the youngest member of the party and one of 294 Australians making their Olympic debut in Tokyo.

The softball team arrived in Japan on June 1 to play warm-ups against local professional teams and will be the first Australian athletes to compete in the Games when they take on hosts Japan on July 21, two days before the opening ceremony.

In a sign of the times, the Australians will ship 75,000 disposable face masks and 544 bottles of hand sanitizer to Japan for use of their delegation, which totals 990 people with the inclusion of officials and coaches.

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