Tokyo Olympics: Sevens great DJ Forbes shifts gears to help refocus Olympians

NZ sevens legend DJ Forbes admits he faces a baptism of fire in his new role with the NZ Olympic Committee.

The 11-year veteran and former skipper of the All Blacks Sevens has been appointed as the organisation's athlete engagement manager, and the turmoil caused by the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and subsequent Tokyo Games postponement has seen him thrown into the deep end.

Part of Forbes' role is to act as a conduit between athletes and the NZOC, and as you'd imagine, the questions have flooded in thick and fast.

"Obviously, there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding qualification dates, and selection processes and criteria," Forbes told Newshub.

"I'm trying to create some clear communications channels for athletes to feel as normal as they can in the situation, and give them clarity and answer questions they've got.

"From my perspective, everyone's in a pretty good place. The sports are doing an awesome job, but if they don't have any support mechanism, then I'm a point of contact they can reach out to.

"Everything we're doing right now is about trying to provide them the best platform to continue doing what they can do with the limitations they're faced with." 

But the Commonwealth Games gold medallist says he's found some silver lining in such extraordinary circumstances.

"I guess the blessing in disguise is it's enabled me - and the NZOC to some degree - to really establish some more genuine and authentic conversation and relationships with athletes and sports organisations across the board.

"Coming together at this point in time is really important, and it's been a good opportunity to do that and put the athletes right at the top of the spectrum.

"Everyone's going through different situations, but just trying to show that we're all in this together, we're still an NZ team and still trying to get to the Olympics next year."

And when it comes to Forbes' beloved area of expertise - rugby sevens - he believes the challenges involved in realigning to 2021 are distinctly more manageable.

While most individual athletes have limited opportunities to remain in competition, making the management of the four-year cycle crucial, the regular matchplay afforded to the sevens sides means another year has relatively little impact.

Players on the fringe of the squad enjoy a chance to further stake their claims for selection, although some of the older heads may need more encouragement, Forbes adds.

"For rugby it's a bit of a different scenario, where they have world series and World Cups, other competitions that keep them on top of their game," says Forbes.

"Now, it's about how [coach] Clark [Laidlaw] goes about trying to re-energise some of the old boys. 

"But it also opens a lot of doors for those athletes who may have thought they were out of the frame, now there's another year to potentially jump on the world series circuit and put their hand up for Olympics inclusion.

"We'll just do our bit to facilitate where we can and provide some certainty in a really uncertain time."