USA’s Noah Lyles competes at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships. [AFP]

United States athletes welcomed the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, exhaling a collective sigh of relief tinged with disappointment as they began to set their sights on 2021.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic has swept into all 50 states of America, leaving US athletes’ years of carefully choreographed Olympic training plans in tatters.

Powerhouse swimmer Katie Ledecky, expected to be one of the stars of the Tokyo Games, had been left without a pool to train in as restrictions in California shut down the Stanford University facilities.

Track and field star Noah Lyles — the reigning 200m world champion — had been denied regular access to a running track. Instead Lyles, who suffers from allergies and asthma, had been forced to train in a Florida park.

Lyles and Ledecky’s problems had become all too common for US athletes, who found themselves torn between the need to comply with local regulations restricting non-essential movement while simultaneously sticking to training regimens designed to help them prepare for Tokyo.

Lyles had no reservations about the decision to postpone the Games — and vowed to be ready for Tokyo in 2021.

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“Straight up I’m tired of hearing I’m sorry like my puppy just died,” Lyles wrote on Twitter. “We will overcome this like everything else and then go win the Gold in 2021!”

US sprint star Allyson Felix, whose six Olympic golds are the most for any female track and field athlete, said the delay won’t halt her bid for a last share of Games glory.

“I am not sure what the future holds, but my goals have not changed,” she wrote in an article posted on Time.com.

“I still hope to experience the feeling of standing on that podium in 2021 and I hope my journey to try to get back there will inspire you to keep moving forward.”

In a later interview with NBC, Lyles said the safety of athletes was paramount.

“The last thing we want is for anybody to get sick,” Lyles told NBC. “I can train for another year, but if the whole world goes through a crisis and everybody gets sick, we won’t have an Olympics at all.”

Lyles had already achieved a qualifying standard to compete in Tokyo. He believes many athletes would have missed out through not being able to train properly.

 

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