Floods hamper Paralympics build up to Games

10:54 am on 19 August 2021

Days of torrential rain, thunderstorms and flooding has hampered the New Zealand's Paralympic track and field athletes' pre-Games training camp in Japan.

Javelin Paralympian Holly Robinson of Dunedin.

Javelin Paralympian Holly Robinson. Photo: © Andrew Cornaga / Photosport Ltd 2021 www.photosport.nz

Seven of the eight members of the athletics squad have been based in Saga, on the island of Kyushu, since Sunday but training sessions have been hit by the weather conditions that have lead to seven deaths in the Nagano, Nagasaki and Saga prefectures.

The cities of Saga and Ureshino have received rainfall of more than half their annual average in less than a week.

Two of the athletes are due to leave Saga tomorrow for classification but the remaining athletes will only head to Tokyo on 24 August and the weather forecast in Saga is not set to improve over the coming days with the Japan Meteorological Agency issuing warnings for landslides in the area.

Javelin thrower Holly Robinson said the early arrival in Japan was designed as an opportunity for athletes to adjust to the conditions and competing during a pandemic - but it wasn't all going to plan.

"With the weather one day we could not train at all because everyone had stay at home orders, you couldn't leave the hotel or go anywhere because of the flooding.

"I'm from Dunedin so it's quite cold down that way compared to over here in Japan so heat was one big thing for us but also just getting out of our routine, getting out of our hometown really cements your journey into the Paralympic Village in a way," Robinson said.

While in camp Robinson and the other Paralympic throwers have been able to quiz an experienced Olympian about what they could expect during competition in Tokyo.

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Dame Valerie Adams with her sister Lisa Adams. Photo: Photosport

Dame Valerie Adams, who claimed a shot put bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, is coaching her younger sister Lisa at the Paralympics and Robinson said her teammates made the most of the chance to get some advice.

"Just little bits and bobs. Technical stuff that as throwers we need, like can you take chalk out, and stuff like that. But generally as a team it's been quite good [to ask] how was the Village and having that feedback it makes you excited to get there and to compete," Robinson said.

"Having those conversations and hearing that from [Athletics NZ High Performance Director] Scott [Goodman] and from Dame Val is really cool."

Robinson won a silver medal at the last Paralympics in Rio and has also been sharing her knowledge and experiences with her newer teammates ahead of her third Games appearance.

New Zealand's flag bearer and javelin competitor Holly Robinson leads the team at the opening ceremony.

New Zealand's flag bearer and javelin competitor Holly Robinson leads the team at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony. Photo: Photosport

"Rio was incredible it was probably one of my highest achievements, along with winning the silver I was the flag bearer so it was an amazing experience but I always want to be better. That's one thing about me is that as an athlete I strive to get better at what I do so I just want to go out there and throw as far as I possibly can and I think Rio can definitely be topped."

While in Japan Robinson has been keeping in touch with the Covid-19 developments in New Zealand.

When she left mask wearing wasn't mandatory in New Zealand but it is for the team in Japan.

"I think in New Zealand we aren't quite used to a lot of things around Covid precautions that they are doing over here like mask wearing is a thing, we have to wear masks at all times unless we are eating or in our room.

"I saw an announcement about mandatory mask use [in New Zealand] in essential places just come through on my phone, but just getting used to having your mask on all the time, making sure you're sanitising and thing as a bubble has been really good being here in Saga to practice those before we get there."

Family and friends were going to join Robinson in Tokyo had the Games gone ahead as originally planned in 2020 but she is pleased they are back home.

"It does suck that they can't be here but I don't have to worry that they're at risk being in the Japanese public or outside of New Zealand."