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Coronavirus: NBA star Patty Mills urges athletes to stay strong after Olympics postponement

Wednesday 25 March 2020 09:45, UK

Patty Mills attacks off the dribble against the Milwaukee Bucks 2:32
San Antonio Spurs point guard and three-time Olympian Patty Mills says his fellow athletes need to 'stay positive, upbeat and strong' after the postponement of the Olympic Games until 2021

San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills has urged fellow athletes to stay strong after the postponement of the 2020 Olympics.

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Mills, who has represented Australia at three Olympic Games - Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 - advised fellow athletes need to "stay positive, upbeat and strong" in these "uncertain times" after the coronavirus pandemic led to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) postponing the Tokyo Games until 2021.

"I can imagine all athletes throw a majority of their eggs into one basket preparing for such an enormous tournament, an enormous event like the Olympics. But then at the same time, you know, to be able to have back-up plans so you can prepare for these times. So you have always got to have control I think as an athlete," Mills said.

Patty Mills celebrates a basket in Australia's win over Team USA
Image: Mills celebrates a basket in Australia's win over Team USA in a pre-FIBA World Cup exhibition

"So for me personally, when these uncertain times do develop, you need to be able to adjust and adjust your goals so that you can stay upbeat, you can stay engaged and continue on with what you have gotta do. So uncertain times. But look, I think naturally as athletes, you have got to stay positive. You have got to stay upbeat and stay strong.

"I have a lot of empathy for my Australian athletes and in particular the athletes who are newcomers to the Olympics, as well as the athletes that are still trying to qualify for the Olympics and what they're going through. Because they're going to be affected quite extremely, not only from a performance standpoint, but from a mental standpoint as well."

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Mills said he felt the IOC found themselves in a "tough position" owing to the spread of coronavirus and backed the postponement of Tokyo 2020.

"Being able to look after the well-being of the athletes" had to be the IOC's top priority because "if it's not for the athletes, then there is no Olympic Games," he said.

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Patty Mills celebrates a basket after being fouled in the Spurs' win over the Nets
Image: Mills celebrates a basket after being fouled in the Spurs' win over the Nets

"Canada was able to take a stance and really provide evidence and show the world that we are about our athletes and we want the best for them and the best thing for their athletes is to not attend and they were very strong about that. I think that definitely forced the hand [of the IOC]. And then obviously the hand of all the other countries for obviously the better.

"We all understand that we're all in this together and we have one goal and that's the health of athletes and their families as the top priority. Just like everyone else in the world that that's affected by this."

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Mills believes the poorest-funded athletes must be considered when IOC decides when the Olympics should take place in 2021.

"The most important thing for people that are in a fortunate position is to have empathy for fellow athletes that might not be in the same situation, but aren't involved in well-funded programs or well-funded leagues that are truly going to be affected by this crisis," he said.

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"That's the first and foremost important factor when thinking about rescheduling this thing that, you know, you gotta be able to think about them.

"I think athletes are at times being put on a pedestal, especially elite athletes. We don't wear capes. We're all human and we're all affected just like everyone else in the world. I think having that perspective is it is important, especially when rescheduling."

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