Tokyo Olympics 2021: New Zealand athletes, Olympic Committee trying to find balance between safety, success

Athletes are in the most crucial stage of preparations for an Olympic Games like no other, with just 100 days to go. 

As well as ensuring they're ready to perform at their peak, Tokyo participants need to prepare for the strict COVID-19 restraints placed on them, but they're confident they're in safe hands.

"We were really concerned," says karate competitor Andrea Anacan. "But the NZ Government and NZOC have been really good at briefing us on what we can do and what we can't do."

"Those restrictions, including wearing face masks, testing and vaccinations will be key in ensuring everyone is safe."

That means spending as little time in the athletes' village as possible. 

"It will be really restricted movement," says NZOC boss Kerryn Smith. "People will come in five days before competition to the village and they'll need to leave within 48 hours of finishing."

The NZOC accepts that, for some Kiwi athletes, swapping zero restrictions at home to what they'll face in Tokyo may come as a shock, but that won't stop them from gunning for gold. 

"How we get there, when we get there and how it's going to happen, we don't know," says rugby sevens star Stacey Fluhler.

"Whenever we have a question, they [NZOC] always have the answers and if they don't, they'll go find out for us."

The protocols are still a juggling act for organisers, but Smith says it's about creating a winning environment for Team New Zealand. 

"On the one hand, you're managing that [safety]," says Smith. "But on the other, it's about a performance environment, where they can fulfill their Olympic dreams."

Against all the odds, those dreams could soon become reality.

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