By John Agok
The South Sudan National Olympics Committee has commended the performance of the South Sudanese athletes in Maebashi City, northwest of Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics games scheduled for 23rd July to August 8, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
While addressing the news conference in Juba on athletes progress in Japan, Dr. Tong Chor, Secretary General of the Committee applauded the efforts of the athletes; called for support and encouragement from all people not only fans.
“I really congratulate Lucia Morris, Akoon Akoon and Michael Machiek for tremendous training, they are now undergoing in Japan, just at the edge of Tokyo 2020 Olympics games”, he narrated.
Both, Dr. Tong Chor and Eng. Stephen Juma all from the National Olympic Committee in Juba were updating the public on progress of the Country’s athletes’ ahead of the forthcoming games in Tokyo.
The athletes have been in Japan for nearly a year in a bid to prepare for the forth coming Tokyo2020 Olympics and Paralympics games in Japan.
While in Japan, the athletes have so far covered meters challenge in their various tournaments as well as during trainings.
“There is 400-metre hurdle specialist Akoon Akoon who covered; 100m and 200m specialist Lucia Morris; 1,500m specialist Abraham Majok (who didn’t make it to practice when Vice World News visited. There is 100m and 200m Paralympics runner Michael Machiek,” he narrated.
The athletes are in idyllic setting at Maebashi city in Japan.
The City is mainly known for its pure water, greenery and as the birthplace of a number of Japanese poets; picturesque mountains surround the town with over 300,000 inhabitants.
The Municipality agreed to host the athletes after the pandemic interrupted the games.
The athletes’ training is led by Japanese Coach Hiroshi Yoshino that consists mainly of stretching drills. Using the hurdles as an obstacle, they move sideways, one leg at a time.
However when Akoon Akoon, the athlete struggles, one of the assistant coaches encourages him to pick up his pace.
Akoon, is a 18 year-old youngest of the group that sits on a chair outside right next to the track. He shows a picture of himself standing bare-footed on a sandy field: a reminder of where he came from and how much he has accomplished against the odds.
“We ran without shoes,” he said. “Here, we have everything we need, including a race track. In South Sudan, we don’t have hurdles, but here we have them. We don’t have tracks, we train in the mud,” Akook said via Zoom Conference from Maebashi City, Japan.
The group went to Japan in November 2019, at that time only to stay for eight months before the tournament.
But unfortunately, the pandemic hit the 2020 Olympics resulting to its postponement. The city later decided to prolong their sponsorship of the team by an extra year, until the Olympics started, allowing them to stay and train.
As of now, they are still there, however the plan is to stay for the games set for July.
Even though Japan has managed to endure the pandemic better than other major economies, a cloud of doubt still hangs over the fate of the games despite reassurances from the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government.
A high-ranking politician of the biggest political party in Japan recently speculated that cancellation was a real possibility, though he later walked back the comments. No matter what develops, the number of fans will be severely limited.