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Samoan sailor happy to wait a year to fulfil Olympic dream

The first Samoan sailor to qualify for the Olympics is grateful for the clarification provided by the 2020 Games postponement.

Eroni Leilua will have to wait until 2021 for the Tokyo Olympics, which were deferred due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

He said postponing was the right call given the impact the whole situation would have had on the competition, let alone the wider public health risks.

“A lot of athletes, including myself, put their hand up and said look we want it postponed, just with the circumstances," he said.

“It just doesn’t seem ethical to run an event like that during a time when people are losing their lives."

Leilua's home of New Zealand has gone into lockdown due to COVID-19 and one of the restrictions is no one  is allowed to go out sailing.

“So I’m just trying to do anything I can at home to keep fit and maintain where I’m at," he said, noting there is less time pressure to get intensive training in because of the postponement.

“The hardest thing at the moment is just the unknown of when we’ll actually come out of lockdown and when things will actually get back to normal."

Leilua had to cancel a trip to Brisbane, Australia for a training camp two weeks ago when both countries imposed 14-day self-isolation restrictions on all incoming passengers.

“Cancelled that trip and just stayed here, treated that week like a training week anyway and kind of simulated what I’d be doing over in Australia," he said.

He hopes to reschedule that and other training camps for the end of this year or early 2021:

“But everyone’s in a bit of an unknown at the moment, some people say we’ll be out in a couple of weeks’ time, others say we could be in here until the end of the year.

“It’s a hard one to plan for but you’ve just gotta adapt and keep plans flexible, which I’m trying to do at the moment – play each day as it comes."

Leilua is one of few New Zealanders still working under the lockdown conditions, with his role in the supply of fruit and vegetables to supermarkets consider to be an essential service.

He said it's eerie driving to and from work in Auckland with no cars on the road, but noted the silver lining of less carbon emissions, and also said the lockdown has given the blessing of more quality time with family.

“You just kind of realise what’s important, as bad as it is there are some positives coming out of it," Leilua said.

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