'It's not just about us': Sask. athletes back Canada's decision to stay home from Olympics this summer

Kayaker Jarret Kenke, pentathlete Shauna Biddulph and rugby player Delaney Aikens are among the Saskatchewan athletes who have spent years chasing the Olympic dream.

Now those dreams have been put on hold indefinitely.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced Sunday it would not allow its athletes to go to Tokyo this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's pushing for a one-year delay.

Backed by the Athletes' Commissions, National Sport Organizations and the Government of Canada, the COC and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) said in a statement Sunday they "made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020."

The two committees are calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games for a year.

"This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health," the Canadian committees said in a statement Sunday night.

The Games are scheduled to open in late-July. The IOC said it expects to make a decision in the next four weeks. Australia supports Canada's position, while Russian officials say the IOC should take more time to evaluate the situation.

'They didn't take this decision lightly'

Saskatchewan athletes interviewed by CBC News say they're disappointed but support the COC's stance.

"I'm sure they didn't take this decision lightly," Kenke said. "It's not just about us for the Olympics. It's about going there, coming back and bringing more of the virus back with all the athletes."

Biddulph agreed, saying health and safety are far more important than any competition or gold medal.

"People are losing their lives. I'm so proud of the COC for making this decision," Biddulph said.

Supplied by Shauna Biddulph

Biddulph skipped the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero to give birth to her daughter. She returned to top form a couple of years ago.

She shared details of a typical training day. After dropping her daughter off at preschool, she'd do a two-hour swim and then weights. She would eat lunch with her daughter, then practice target shooting and go for a run. When her husband returned from work to care for their child, Biddulph would go to fencing practice.

At 33 years of age, Biddulph says she isn't sure how many more chances she'll get.

"I'm exhausted a lot of the time. I put my life on hold. So did those who supported me," she said.

"It's not a great situation for anybody and it's tough. It's only every four years. It sucks."

Biddulph said Canada's coronavirus concerns are valid. She also noted many countries have put doping tests on hold as they scramble to supply basic health care to the public. Forging ahead with the games would be unfair to clean athletes, she said.

Supplied by Jarret Kenke

Jarret Kenke is one of the world's best kayakers, having captured a silver medal at the 2018 Pan American Championships. He's spent the last few years living at the national training centres in Halifax and back in Saskatoon, self-isolating in his parents' basement after the team's Florida training camp was cut short.

He's trying to train as much as possible on a kayaking machine, but said it's hard to stay motivated.

"We really live fighting for that next competition, but there's so much uncertainty," he said.

Supplied by Delaney Atkins

Rugby player Delaney Aikens came home from the national training centre in Victoria, B.C. and is working out on her family farm near Moose Jaw.

"It'll be ok. Growing up in small town Saskatchewan, you make do with what you've got," she said.

"This sucks, but health and safety have to be number one."