Disappointment and relief cover the gamut of emotions that members of the Canadian men’s field hockey team felt upon yesterday’s announcement by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) that they would not send teams to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
New Westminster’s Brenden Bissett said it was a decision that had to be made, and hopefully one that will steer the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the 2020 Games.
“My reaction was first quite sad, but relieved in a way because the decision was made by our country with everyone’s health in mind,” Bissett told the Record on Monday. “Before (the decision) I was uncertain and anxious at the same time. As a team, the country and the world, we’re kind of facing something totally global in (COVID-19) and we need to take serious action.”
The COC and CPC have also urged the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to postpone the Games for one year.
“We offer them our full support in helping navigate all the complexities that rescheduling the Games will bring. While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the Canadian organizations stated in a joint statement.
Burnaby’s Gabriel Ho-Garcia said that it was apparent when the team was in Chile for a test match series of games with the host nation and Argentina that the Games could be in trouble as news from China kept coming out.
“We were (in Chile) when news of the virus broke out,” said Ho-Garcia, 26. “We arrived home and while Tokyo’s close to China, it wasn’t clear that it would get to where we are now. It just started to get closer and closer, so we had to prepare ourselves (for no Games).”
Bissett said he and his teammates, like so many striving over the past four years to get to the Olympics, were excited and dedicated to being in Tokyo for the July 24 opening ceremonies until COVID-19 became a deadly pandemic.
“Up until a couple of weeks ago I was looking forward and anticipating it,” said Bissett. “When the pro (sports) leagues all shut down it kind of became obvious that this was a big thing. We just didn’t see how July 24th start date was possible.”
The Canadian team had earned its berth with a dramatic two-game series win over Ireland in North Vancouver last October.
Bissett, who has 132 caps with Team Canada, was a member of the 2016 men’s Olympic team in Brazil that posted a 0-1-4 record.
Getting to represent your country on the largest stage is something that has no comparison, he said.
“It was the best experience of my life. We went in with high expectations and wanted to do our best. We didn’t have the success we wanted but when I look back at it it was such a rewarding experience,” said Bissett.
A number of family members, including his parents and uncle, had booked trips to Tokyo to watch him compete.
“They’re disappointed and also relieved,” he noted.
The 27-year-old forward/midfielder said his Olympic dream was inspired by his uncle, David Bissett, who competed at the 1976 Montreal and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, including the latter as captain.
“He’s the reason I got into it, why my family got into it,” said Bissett.