Several New Zealand athletes say they would still want to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, even if they were likely to contract coronavirus.

The impact of Covid-19 on the sporting world has been magnified in the past 48 hours, with the cancellation or postponement of major events across the globe, including the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, The Players Championship golf tournament, the Australian Grand Prix and the America's Cup World Series regatta in Cagliari.

Yesterday's postponement of next week's Piha Pro surfing event was also the first major sporting competition in New Zealand to be affected by the pandemic.

Although IOC bosses remain hopeful the Games, set for July 24-August 9, will go ahead, the growing number of confirmed cases worldwide, more than 134,000, and almost 5000 deaths, will have organisers on alert.


The Weekend Herald canvassed New Zealand Olympic hopefuls to ask how they would weigh up the sporting opportunity of a lifetime with the possible presence of the virus.

Kiwi tennis star Marcus Daniell featured at the Rio Olympics alongside Michael Venus, and is likely to qualify again, as one of the top two doubles exponents in the country.

"It would be totally subjective," said Daniell.

"In Rio, we had Zika, and a lot of athletes chose not to go because of that. I think this is another challenge.

"It is such a huge occasion, a huge dream, that I think I would go regardless and your chances go up or down, depending on what you do yourself and what health decisions you make personally.

"There are many ways you can minimise your chances if you are really disciplined about that stuff. In saying that, [the Olympics] is right in that Asian circle which seems to have been hit the hardest and earliest.

"My gut reaction is yes, I would go, if you say, okay, it is 100 per cent that I will catch it, but 99 per cent that I will fight it off," said the 30-year-old, who has won four doubles titles on the ATP tour. "How many people have an opportunity to go to the Olympics, how many times in a lifetime?

"You sacrifice a huge amount to get to wherever you get to in professional sport and the Olympics for me is a pinnacle. I know some people in tennis don't consider it that way, but especially coming from New Zealand, where the Olympics are just huge, I consider it the peak moment in my career. So if I can go, I would do a lot to go."


"But then what you would be worried about is coming back into the everyday environment and the home environment. That's what you would have to be very, very careful about after the Games."

New Zealand's Marcus Daniell and his mixed doubles partner Jennifer Brady during Wimbledon. Photo / Photosport
New Zealand's Marcus Daniell and his mixed doubles partner Jennifer Brady during Wimbledon. Photo / Photosport

Callum Gilbert, who has been confirmed as one of two selected on the New Zealand canoe slalom team for Tokyo, admits it is an uncertain time.

"I've dreamed about this for a long time, so for it to become a reality is incredible," Gilbert said.

"You just need to take each day as it comes, carry on training and preparing to be the best you can be for the Olympic Games.

"We get constant updates from the New Zealand Olympic Committee, who are talking with the IOC, and have got protocols in place to keep us safe and get us there."

Like Daniell, Gilbert said the lure of competing at the Olympics would override any health concerns.


"We are a low risk group so I think I would definitely take the risk and I would go," said Gilbert.

"The concern really is around my family. My parents are a little bit older and so potentially it is more of a concern for them and whether they come and support me at the Games or they stay home.

"I think if we knew we were guaranteed to catch the virus, yeah, I would still go, knowing that the chances of it having any serious implications for me were probably quite low."

Canoe Slalom athlete Callum Gilbert was named in the NZ Olympic team. Photo / Photosport
Canoe Slalom athlete Callum Gilbert was named in the NZ Olympic team. Photo / Photosport

Nacra 17 sailor Micah Wilkinson was also confirmed in the New Zealand team two weeks ago, capping a remarkable rise after only teaming up with new partner Erica Dawson in July.

The 24-year-old said he regarded Olympians as "super heroes" when he was watching them on television as a kid, and would love the chance to inspire the next generation.

He admitted that any prospect of the Games being called off would be "heartbreaking" and like Daniell and Gilbert he would likely prioritise participation over any possible health concerns.


"I don't know the details of the virus, I've just trusted the people around me to make the decisions," Wilkinson said.

"[But] we are not in the age bracket that is high risk. We are fit and healthy people and we have got a good chance of surviving it so I would be there any day of the week, unless there was untoward risk, which by then we wouldn't be sent.

"I will be listening to the experts [but] if this is low risk, for someone of my age, even with the virus, I think I would go," added Wilkinson. "The percentages are low enough, you would definitely take it on. We have worked so hard for this, so if you have a small percentage of something being serious, then you would take it."

Micah Wilkinson. Photo / Photosport
Micah Wilkinson. Photo / Photosport

New Zealand Olympic Committee spokeswoman Ashley Abbott told the Weekend Herald the IOC has established a joint task force "looking at counter-measures to ensure the Games are safe and secure for athletes and spectators".

"We have had a team on the ground in Tokyo this past week, looking at facilities like the athletes' village and meeting with organisers," Abbott said. "The IOC has reaffirmed its commitment to holding the Games in Japan in July and August.

"The situation is certainly challenging for athletes and sports right now," she said.


"The NZOC is adjusting selection and nomination criteria to meet the changing circumstances and supporting sports as they work through decision-making processes around upcoming travel and competition."