Thornley eyes ‘safe as possible’ Games

Victoria Thornley wears a mask on the water
Victoria Thornley and then rowing partner Katherine Grainger won double sculls silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Welsh rower Victoria Thornley understands the concerns of those in Japan who fear this summer’s Olympic Games being held there.

But the 33-year-old single-sculler Team GB contender is confident the Games “will be as safe as possible”.

She added: “It’s a really difficult one and I do feel for the Japanese people who are struggling with another wave of Covid in their country.”

Thornley competes at the World Rowing Cup II at Lucerne at the weekend.

The Wrexham-born rower goes there hoping to impress the selectors after winning silver at the European Championships at Varese in April.

“There were some good scullers in Varese at the Europeans and now you’re bringing in some more people from around the world and a couple of scullers who weren’t at the Europeans for different reasons so there’s definitely a fuller field here so it will be a really good gauge as to where we’re at building into Tokyo.

“But this still is the next stepping stone in the journey in our preparation so I won’t be the finished product this weekend.

“We still have to be selected for the Games and my goal since 2017 has been to be there and this weekend’s part of proving that I’m fast enough to be selected for Tokyo so that’s a big part of this weekend as well.”

If Thornley succeeds in making Team GB, protocols for avoiding any Covid-19 risks in Tokyo will come into sharper focus.

The World Players Association (WPA) has told the International Olympic Committee (IOC) it “must urgently guarantee world-class Covid-19 protections” if this year’s Games are to be held safely.

That call came with Tokyo under a state of emergency because of a rise in cases.

The state of emergency is set to remain in place until the end of May, with the Olympics scheduled to start on 23 July.

Thornley says she and her would-be team-mates are already familiar with some of what to expect if the Games goes ahead.

“We recently had a call with the BOA (British Olympic Association) and we had more insight about what they’re [the International Olympic Committee] doing to mitigate any risk and things like that.

“I think the things that are going in place are going to really make it as safe as possible so I’m confident that the Games will be as safe as possible, but I can understand people’s nervousness around holding them.

“Obviously from an athlete’s perspective, yes of course we want to be able to race in Tokyo and have the opportunity to do our big performance and that’s what the Games is all about.

“It’s the only one that matters and it’s what we’ve all been trained for, yes, and that’s for five years rather than four.”

Thornley says she has not yet read the Games’ Covid guidance book “page by page”.

“I’ve heard the key stand-out points from it and it’s like anything with Covid – it’s a moving thing and you’ve just got to go with what’s required of you,” she added.

“And I know the BOA will make it as simple as possible for the athletes and they always set up the best environment for us to perform and yes it will be a very different Games and it’s about us doing our part and doing our performances as best we can.”

You can listen to the full interview with Victoria Thornley on Radio Wales Sport, Friday, 21 May, BBC Radio Wales from 19:00 BST and later on demand.

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