Sport

COVID-19: No change in my Olympic goals, says UAE cycling star Yousif Mirza

COVID-19: No change in my Olympic goals, says UAE cycling star Yousif Mirza

Dubai: Yousif Mirza, UAE’s top-ranked cyclist and Team Emirates’ Emirati rider, came out in support of the postponement of Tokyo Olympics and said it did not change his goals in any manner.

‘‘Tokyo 2020 was such a huge goal of mine and has been for a number of years but this target hasn’t changed, it just means that the dates have been pushed back. It’s something that has obviously disappointed me in the short term but it’s a decision I agree with,’’ he said.

Mirza admitted that the 2020 cycling season is looking ‘‘very different,’’ as is the case with the world sporting calendar which has been completely thrown out of gear with the dreaded cornavirus pandemic. The UAE Tour, which kickstarted the season in end-February, had to be cancelled with two stages still left after two Italian members of a team had tested positive for the virus.

‘‘All major sporting events around the world have been postponed including this summer’s Olympic Games, which I believe to be a wise decision. Postponing is an important word in that sentence. They haven’t cancelled the Olympics; they’re just changing the date.

‘‘There is no better feeling than representing your country at the Olympic Games and I am very proud to say that I competed at Rio in 2016. The whole experience was amazing - the Olympics is supposed to be a celebration of four years of hard work and training and a chance to show everyone your talents and inspire others. If the Olympics had gone ahead this summer, I don’t think it would’ve been fair or appropriate,’’ he reasoned.

Mirza, who is trying to make the most of this period of isolation by training indoors, said: ‘‘Many of us have been in lockdown now for several weeks and restricted in what we can do and how we can train. I am still training hard whilst in isolation on the bike indoors, but nothing matches being on the track and doing the real thing.

‘‘It’s very important, as professional sportsmen, that we stay active and don’t let our fitness levels drop during this time. Riding the bike indoors and with double sessions most days, is a great way to break up your day, help time go quicker and stay fit and healthy.’’

Like most sportspersons who advocated spending time with the family during this phase, Mirza said: ‘‘During this lockdown and isolation period, one thing I am grateful for is that I am getting more time to spend with my family - something I wouldn’t have been able to do if the season was going ahead as normal. The life of a pro cyclist means travelling the world, racing in amazing places and being looked after by team staff but you can be away from your family for months at a time so I’m trying to make the most of this time by ourselves.’’

Finally, he endorses the UAE government’s initiative to stay indoors to be safe and practise social distancing. ‘‘It’s incredibly important that all UAE residents stay positive and listen to the sound advice being given by the UAE government. I encourage everyone to #StayHome and stay safe,’’ he added.