The boxing tournament in the British capital was organized by the IOC itself because the world boxing association is currently suspended due to widespread corruption. The fact that the event was not canceled in advance caused a lot of criticism. The tournament also included athletes from Italy, Spain and France – countries with high corona infection rates even then. The IOC only broke off after three days of competition.
Nadine Apetz, 34, and athlete spokeswoman for the German Boxing Association (DBV), was there in London. Apetz boxed for her Olympic ticket in the weight class up to 69 kilograms. Now the tournament ended prematurely one day before their decisive fight.
MIRROR: What feelings did you travel to London with?
Apetz: To be honest, I was relatively easy going, since we had been in England with the German team since February 28th. When we left Germany, the situation was relatively relaxed. Of course, I followed the developments in the news as the number of infected people increased. Only one day before the start of the tournament did I start to think: In Germany it’s getting really critical – will they even let us start here tomorrow?
MIRROR: Did you think you were at risk in London?
Apetz: No. You have to understand: As an athlete, you are so focused because you have worked towards such a tournament for years. The tension that one builds up in the months before is so great that other thoughts are simply not so present. When the Italian team arrived, there were even a few jokes about being careful now. We all assumed that no sick boxers would take part.
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MIRROR: What protective measures have been taken?
Apetz: During the morning medical check, our temperature was measured differently than usual. There was disinfectant everywhere, we made sure to wash our hands and not to stand in groups with people.
MIRROR: The tournament was supposed to last until March 24th, but it turned out differently. Shortly before the start it was decided to finish the competitions by March 21st, on Monday it was decided to cancel the qualification after three days. What do you think about the cancellation?
Apetz: It is the right decision, which I can understand, from a health and socially responsible perspective there was no alternative. As an athlete, however, I am extremely frustrated to be stopped so close to the goal. Tokyo was to be the highlight of my career. I would have boxed for the qualifying spot on Tuesday and I thought I had a good chance against my opponent. And then the tournament is canceled for such reasons. From a sporting point of view, this is a disaster. So I ask myself the question: should we have started the tournament at all? Or shouldn’t one have said right from the start: The situation is so dynamic and critical – we leave it at that. Of course that would have been stupid too. But in the middle of it?
MIRROR: Are you talking about an organizational chaos?
Apetz: I don’t think the tournament was badly organized overall. You have to see that the IOC was under pressure and had to make decisions. As it has now turned out, it made the wrong decision. However, I do not want to make a blanket charge. We are currently living in a time when such developments are difficult to predict. We all thought: either cancel from the start or pull through until March 21st. But breaking off in the middle of it is extremely stupid for everyone involved.
MIRROR: So on Tuesday you flew back to Germany instead of boxing your Tokyo ticket. And now?
Apetz: I sit at home.
MIRROR: And your training?
Apetz: Good question. The next one and a half weeks is due to regeneration, which fits well, because I should stay at home anyway. How it will go on is currently difficult to say, Olympia could be postponed or canceled in the meantime, so you have to look from day to day. As of now we have to prepare for the European qualification to be continued sometime in April or email.
Apetz: If Olympia starts in July as planned, deadlines must be met. After the continental qualifications, there is one last option to secure a Japan ticket at a world tournament. This in turn must take place in June at the latest.
MIRROR: How do you want to keep fit?
Apetz: That has not yet been decided, but the idea is to gather the Olympic athletes of various sports in the Federal Performance Center in Kienbaum and to hold a kind of quarantine training camp. There we would be relatively isolated and self-sufficient. That would be an option for me, since we are no longer allowed to train in small groups at the base in North Rhine-Westphalia.
MIRROR: How do you plan your training in view of the uncertain schedule?
Apetz: That is the great difficulty. In sport, you work in cycles and align everything to the dates, which are reasonably fixed. If you are on standby as it is now, it is difficult to plan the training so that you can reach your optimum when it finally comes out and when it will go on. The conditions for qualification are catastrophic at the moment, we don’t know anything, and the athletes are at different levels of performance. Moving the games would be the best solution in terms of sport.
MIRROR: Do you think it is realistic that the games can take place this year?
Apetz: No. A lot has developed so quickly in the last few days. If you read how the infection and death rates will increase, if no measures are taken, and which problems the health system will then face. You have to remember: The games are a huge event, involving thousands of people from all over the world. I don’t see Olympia taking place. Of course, we keep going and keep our focus as long as we don’t hear anything else, but I’m assuming we’ll get the message someday that it will be postponed.
MIRROR: In this context, how do you rate the behavior of the IOC, which has so far held on to a host?
Apetz: That shouldn’t sound selfish, but as an athlete I would have to lie if I didn’t say that I would like to qualify this year and have the ticket in my pocket. Of course, one thing is also clear: health, social and societal responsibility, planning security – all of this is of course much more important. The IOC must therefore make a concrete decision in the next few days.
MIRROR: How is the situation discussed among the boxers?
Apetz: I think it’s a strange situation for all of us. Until Monday we were in the spirit: We’re going to Olympia. I believe that reality will only gradually sink with us now that we have just emerged from this bubble, this sports bubble.