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Grant Rivers staying positive despite uphill battle to reach Tokyo Olympics

Eyes on the prize: Grant Rivers is confident he can qualify in the javelin for the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.

Grant Rivers is determined to keep his dream alive of competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year ahead of a daunting qualification period.

The 25-year-old has endured a far from ideal pathway to attempt to achieve his aspirations, with an Achilles injury forcing him to switch disciplines from decathlon to javelin in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic scuppered the entire outdoor season this year.

To compound matters, World Athletics has dramatically altered the qualifying standards, shortening track times and extending field distances, making it harder than ever before for athletes to book their place.

As part of the new dual-qualification system, an athlete has to either achieve the tougher standard, or qualify based on their world ranking within the qualifying period.

Despite being faced with yet another setback, Rivers, who to qualify automatically now needs to throw 85 metres — which would have secured gold at the 2012 Olympics in London — is refusing to admit defeat.

“The qualification standard is hard for everyone,” said Rivers, whose personal best is just shy of 60 metres. “The new qualification standard has actually won previous Olympics in the past.

“However, I’m OK with that. I’ve never been deterred by it. I just have to make sure my world ranking is high enough in seven months’ time. That means going out in every meet and competing as hard as I can.

“Nothing is ever easy, at any level, but that’s how it’s supposed to be; that’s why I love it.”

While Rivers could be excused for feeling sorry for himself, he is instead focusing on the positives, particularly the significance of remaining injury-free.

“Despite all the ups and downs of the past couple of years, I’m feeling pretty good and I’m in a good place in terms of my athletics,” added Rivers, who is striving to become the first Bermudian to compete in the javelin at the Olympics.

“For me, though, this year has been more about getting myself into a strong position in terms of my body and making sure everything is geared up for next year.

“Arguably the most positive thing for me from this year is that I’ve remained injury-free; it’s actually been great.

“That’s the most important thing for me because the most successful athletes have usually been the most consistent, and to do that I have to stay injury-free. I can’t afford to miss time training and more importantly competitions when they do come around, so for me I’m just grateful my body is feeling strong and not letting me down.

“The Olympics is definitely still my aim. There are so many people who have helped me and I don’t want to let them down. My end goal is to represent Bermuda at the Olympics; that desire hasn’t changed.”

While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the sporting calendar and cause uncertainty, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were due to be held from July 24 to August 9, and from August 25 to September 6 respectively, will go ahead “no later than next summer”.

After seeing his plans of competing between Britain and United States in the next six months all but ended, Rivers is hopeful he will be handed the opportunity to qualify on island before the June 29 deadline.

“The original plan next year was to compete between the UK and US but obviously because of Covid-19 and travel restrictions that isn’t looking possible,” he said.

“It means I’ll have to compete in meets on island and I think there have been some conversations about trying to bring some athletes to Bermuda to have some proper competition for me.

“Obviously, I know what I have to do qualify but I think it’s important to have proper competition to make sure I’m at my best.

“I’ve been throwing well over the past year and hopefully I can keep inching towards that qualifying distance. I’ve still got some time ahead of me to achieve what I need to.”

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Published December 29, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2020 at 9:29 am)

Grant Rivers staying positive despite uphill battle to reach Tokyo Olympics

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