The Road to Tokyo: The best quotes of 2020

Japanese athlete UCHIMURA Kohei on the pommel horse
Japanese athlete UCHIMURA Kohei on the pommel horse

Today marks the last day of 2020.

As the sun rose on 1 January, it was set to be a year marked by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games but the COVID-19 pandemic changed the lives of everyone across the globe.

Throughout the year, Tokyo 2020 has witnessed how athletes have managed changes to their sporting and personal lives – from training to studies and work – and at times even postponed retirement plans in order to attend the re-scheduled Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021.

What has been most evident is that the world is #StrongerTogether.

As we say goodbye to the year that was, athletes shared their thoughts and feelings as they looked ahead to 2021. And with that, here are some of the best quotes from The Road to Tokyo.

The art of being Anders Antonsen

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 21: Anders Antonsen of Denmark competes against Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei during the Men's Singles Final match on day six of the Bli Bli Indonesia Open at Istora Gelora Bung Karno on July 21, 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
JAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 21: Anders Antonsen of Denmark competes against Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei during the Men's Singles Final match on day six of the Bli Bli Indonesia Open at Istora Gelora Bung Karno on July 21, 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

I want to to reach the absolute top.

Who doesn't want to win an Olympic gold medal? That is the best that you can achieve maybe in all of sports.

As others gathered around the television watching the Beijing 2008 Games, Anders Antonsen was hitting the shuttlecock in his backyard. Twelve years later, the 23-year-old - now among the crème de la crème of world badminton - is aiming to replicate what Poul-Erik Høyer Larsen did at the 1996 Atlanta Games – win a men’s singles gold medal.

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Georgia Taylor-Brown: The melee of madness

Georgia Taylor-Brown of Great Britain in action during the World Triathlon Leeds on 8 June 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Georgia Taylor-Brown of Great Britain in action during the World Triathlon Leeds on 8 June 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

I'm trying to up my speed so I can get closer to that first buoy quicker than everyone else,

so I'm not part of that melee of madness.

Great Britain's triathlon world champion Georgia Taylor-Brown has had a rollercoaster ride to the top of her sport. Tokyo 2020 talked to her about frantic races to the first buoy, injury setbacks and her fantastic end to a year fraught with disruption.

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Barbra Banda: "We have something within us"

Barbra Banda in action against Cameroon during the final round of the Women's CAF Olympic Qualification Tournament
Barbra Banda in action against Cameroon during the final round of the Women's CAF Olympic Qualification Tournament
FAZ

We have something in us. I believe in my team.

The teams have to be ready for us.

Zambia’s women’s football team are set to make history next summer when they make their Olympic Games debut.

The Copper Queens, as they're known, have never qualified for a FIFA Women’s World Cup and the last time Zambia participated in an Olympic Football tournament was at Seoul 1988. However, their captain, Barbra Banda, is raring for the Games to start and has full confidence that her team can turn heads in Tokyo.

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Melissa Tapper: 'No player is Para or able-bodied in my head'

Melissa Tapper of Australia  plays a Women's Singles preliminary match against Caroline Kumahara of Brazil at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Melissa Tapper of Australia plays a Women's Singles preliminary match against Caroline Kumahara of Brazil at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

No player is Para or able-bodied in my head.

Table tennis star Melissa Tapper made history at Rio 2016 by becoming the first - and only - Australian athlete to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now with Tokyo 2020 less than a year away, she's gunning for gold at next year’s Paralympic Games.

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Vanessa Low: One last time

Vanessa Low of Germany poses after setting a new the world record for the women's long jump - T42 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images for Tokyo 2020)
Vanessa Low of Germany poses after setting a new the world record for the women's long jump - T42 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images for Tokyo 2020)
2016 Getty Images

You can make all these plans and you can have a game plan for the next couple of years, things change.

And sometimes those changes aren't bad. Sometimes those changes tend to be your biggest opportunities.

Low was just a month shy of her 16th birthday when she stumbled off a platform into the path of an oncoming train. Waking up from a coma two weeks later, the teenager discovered that both her legs had been amputated above the knee. Now aged 29 with a world record to her name, the Paralympic star reflects on a superb career and says Tokyo 2020 will be her last Games.

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Fans and gymnasts gather for Friendship and Solidarity meet in Tokyo

Yul Moldauer of the United States and UCHIMURA Kohei of Japan fist bump after receiving medals during the Closing Ceremony
Yul Moldauer of the United States and UCHIMURA Kohei of Japan fist bump after receiving medals during the Closing Ceremony
©AFLO SPORT

The question we should be asking ourselves is not whether we can hold the Games or not - but how, and all of us need to put our heads together to make sure that it does go ahead.

I want people to start thinking differently.

Uchimura Kohei, Japan

The Friendship and Solidarity Gymnastics meet was the first international sporting competition to take place in Japan since March. Thirty gymnasts from the United States, Russian Federation, People's Republic of China and hosts Japan took part in a meet to showcase international camaraderie.

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Joseph Schooling: 'I still want to win more than ever'

Joseph Schooling of Singapore celebrates winning the gold medal in the Men's 100m Butterfly at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Joseph Schooling of Singapore celebrates winning the gold medal in the Men's 100m Butterfly at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

I want to be the best version I can be. Medal wise, of course, everyone who goes to the Olympics, most of them want to win. If not why do we do this every day.

At Rio 2016, he toppled swimming royalty when he defeated Olympic champion Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly - to claim Singapore's first and only gold medal at the Olympic Games whilst breaking a new Olympic record. Now in the US to continue his training, Schooling eyes Tokyo 2020 not only to surpass his previous successes but also to become the best version of himself.

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Dušan Domocivć-Bulut: Crafted on the streets of Novi Sad

Dusan Bulut during the 3x3 World Tour playing for Novi Sad
Dusan Bulut during the 3x3 World Tour playing for Novi Sad
Photo provided by FIBA

When I was growing up, I had everything I need, because for me, just playing basketball was everything I needed.

Dušan Domocivć-Bulut is a world-renowned 3x3 basketball player but the world no.1 player has humble beginnings. The Serbian point guard's skills, which he developed on the courts of Novi Sad, will be on full display next year when the sport of 3x3 basketball makes its Olympic debut.

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Stacey Porter: Belief is a powerful thing

Stacey Porter of Australia hits a single in the seventh inning against Italy during the Preliminary Round match during the 2018 WBSC Women's Softball World Championship (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Stacey Porter of Australia hits a single in the seventh inning against Italy during the Preliminary Round match during the 2018 WBSC Women's Softball World Championship (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
2018 Getty Images

He has never missed an Olympic Games and I think it will be a little different without him in the stands in Tokyo but, I have no doubt he’s with me every step of the way.

After 13 years away from the Olympic Games, softball will make its return and for veteran Stacey Porter it's set to be a special moment for more than one reason. Australia have proven success on the Olympic stage and this time they are aiming for the one medal they don't have in their collection.

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Jessica Klimkait: "This is the road and path I want to take"

Canadian judoka Jessica Klimkait has won three Grand Slams in total and is now preparing to secure a slot for Tokyo 2020
Canadian judoka Jessica Klimkait has won three Grand Slams in total and is now preparing to secure a slot for Tokyo 2020
Photo by Rafal Burza

I knew that I was going to keep doing judo and I knew I wanted to pursue that. And I've sort of accepted that and I'm beyond happy with that choice today.

Canadian judoka and world No 1 Jessica Klimkait (-57kg) intends to land her spot at Tokyo 2020 but she must first battle it out with world No 2 (and former world no 1) Christa Deguchi in a series of fights to determine who will represent Canada at the Games next year.

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Jenny Egan: In 10 years, I hope we won’t be talking about gender equality in sport

Team Ireland athlete Jenny Egan prepares for competition at the European Games in Minsk. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Team Ireland athlete Jenny Egan prepares for competition at the European Games in Minsk. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

There’s a place for women in all aspects of sport

Republic of Ireland’s canoe sensation Jenny Egan is a World Championship, European and World Cup medallist who is ranked no.1 in the world in the K1 5000m.

Tokyo 2020 caught up with her to talk about growing up on the water, next year’s Olympics and her role in increasing the visibility of women in sport.

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Nathan Hirayama: Tokyo 2020 is for players past and present

Nathan Hirayama of Canada during the 2020 World Rugby Sevens Series
Nathan Hirayama of Canada during the 2020 World Rugby Sevens Series
Derek Stevens Photography 2020

I think my initial feelings after [the match] were relief and I just thought of all those other guys that I wish could’ve experienced it with us because it came after such a long journey.

After missing out on qualifying four years ago, Canada's rugby sevens men's team are set to make their Olympic debut next summer. Securing qualification had been a goal for veteran national team member Nathan Hirayama however, booking their tickets to Tokyo 2020 was not just an achievement for the squad but for all those players who came before him too.

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The Refugee Olympic Team: Rio 2016 was for attention, Tokyo 2020 is for our full potential

Members of the Refugee Olympic Team pose in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue on July 30, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Members of the Refugee Olympic Team pose in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue on July 30, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

When we get to Tokyo, we shall come ready to compete

Chef De Mission of the Refugee Olympic Team, Tegla Loroupe, and 1,500m runner Paulo Lokoro talk exclusively to Tokyo 2020 about the team’s foundations and their preparations for next year’s Games.

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Katie Mullan: "We're seeing the next twelve months as an opportunity for us. It's a blessing."

Captain Katie Mullan atop the Irish teammates who celebrate after qualifying for Tokyo 2020 at the 2019 Women's FIH Olympic Hockey Qualifier in Dublin.
Captain Katie Mullan atop the Irish teammates who celebrate after qualifying for Tokyo 2020 at the 2019 Women's FIH Olympic Hockey Qualifier in Dublin.
©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

I think we have to set our targets at medal in Tokyo,

because we will be we will be silly not to.

Team captain Katie Mullan is at the helm of Ireland's women's hockey team and intends to make their first appearance at an Olympic Games historic by going for a coveted Olympic medal.

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IPC President Andrew Parsons: Be strong, we will be together in Tokyo in one year’s time

IPC President Andrew Parsons poses for photographs ahead of the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images for IPC)
IPC President Andrew Parsons poses for photographs ahead of the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images for IPC)
2018 Getty Images

When we are all together for the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics and the Paralympics it will be a historic moment for humankind.

IPC President Andrew Parsons believes the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be the catalyst to "build a new world", a symbol that we have left the pandemic behind and a celebration of "sport and peace and brotherhood".

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Mandy Marquardt: The Olympic hopeful redefining diabetes 

Mandy Marquardt of United States competes in the Women's Sprint Qualifying during the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in 2019 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Mandy Marquardt of United States competes in the Women's Sprint Qualifying during the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in 2019 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

To overcome that adversity and all these challenges, it makes us better athletes, and better people.

Mandy Marquardt, the 18-time National Champion and two-time American record holder, spoke exclusively to Tokyo 2020 about cycling, the Olympics and how she’s helping to redefine what’s possible as an athlete with type 1 diabetes.

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Margielyn Didal: Skating her way to Tokyo 2020

Margielyn Didal from the Philippines hopes to compete in next year's Tokyo 2020 Games.
Margielyn Didal from the Philippines hopes to compete in next year's Tokyo 2020 Games.
Courtesy of Anthony Claravall

I still can't imagine representing my country and raising the Philippine flag, especially at the Olympics.

Margielyn Didal is living a fairytale – the kind that can take you from the streets and land you in the Olympics. Now ranked no 14 in the world, Didal has an opportunity to win the country's first medal in a new Olympic sport - skateboarding.

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Frazer Clarke: The world will know who I am

Frazer Clarke of England celebrates winning his Men's Super Heavy +91kg semi-final bout against Patrick Mailata of New Zealand at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Frazer Clarke of England celebrates winning his Men's Super Heavy +91kg semi-final bout against Patrick Mailata of New Zealand at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
2018 Getty Images

“I’m a proud man and I’ll fight until there’s not another breath in my body.”

The British super heavyweight champion who was stabbed in the neck as he celebrated the birth of his first child, walked into a terror attack, was overlooked for London 2012 and Rio 2016, and was just two fights away from qualifying for Tokyo 2020 – only for COVID-19 to curtail qualification – pulls no punches in plotting a return to the ring and promises to fight until his last breath for Olympic glory.

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Israel’s baseball team: From dreamers to Olympians

Israel celebrate securing their qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 after beating the Republic of South Africa 11-1
Israel celebrate securing their qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 after beating the Republic of South Africa 11-1
Credit: WBSC

The first team to actually qualify for the Olympics, was an incredible accomplishment from where we had come and where we are today.

Former Israel Association of Baseball President Peter Kurz had a dream for the national team: to go to an Olympic Games.

That was in 2017 and now Israel, who just have 1,000 baseball players back in their home nation, will be one of six teams vying for a medal at next year's Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 after qualifying as the European representatives.

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Hugo Calderano: Brazil’s powerhouse for Tokyo 2020

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07:  Hugo Calderano of Brazil takes a selfie with fans after winning a Men's Singles second round match against Par Gerell of Sweden  on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Hugo Calderano of Brazil takes a selfie with fans after winning a Men's Singles second round match against Par Gerell of Sweden on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

I think my results are inspiring other Latin American players and showing them that it’s possible to reach the top coming from our continent.

Hugo Calderano is the first Brazilian (and Latino) to ever reach world no 6 in table tennis. And in the coming Olympic Games, the Brazilian table tennis player wants to earn medals and end China's dominance in the sport.

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Andrea Cassarà: The secret is balance

Andrea Cassarà at the Challenge International De Paris in January 2020.
Andrea Cassarà at the Challenge International De Paris in January 2020.
@BIZZI TEAM/Augusto Bizzi / FIE / Eva Pavía

I learned that you have to balance the emotions in a 'winning' situation - when you win and when you lose.

Italian fencing legend Andrea Cassarà is more centred and more confident than ever as he eyes Tokyo 2020 – his fifth Olympic Games – to win his first-ever individual gold medal whilst looking ahead to Paris 2024.

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