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Canada's MacLennan says cares of the world take priority over Olympic dreams

Two-time Olympic gold medallist Rosie MacLennan says her quest for a third in trampoline must take a back seat to efforts to curb and contain COVID-19.

MacLennan, who is a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee's athletes commission, acknowledged the virus has thrown into upheaval the lives and plans of athletes everywhere.

This summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo have not yet been cancelled or postponed, but qualifying events have been scuttled or postponed.

Athletes were facing barriers to training as their facilities shut down.

"It's drastically changing how athletes can prepare, if they can train at all," MacLennan wrote in a Twitter post Wednesday.

"While we try and continue preparations as best we can . . . how far behind will we fall?

"On the other hand, is that what we should be focusing on right now?"

The 31-year-old from Toronto became both the first Canadian athlete to defend a gold medal and the first Canadian woman to twice win gold in an individual event at a Summer Games when she was victorious in Rio in 2016.

MacLennan's gold in London in 2012 was Canada's lone gold of those games.

Earning a third in Tokyo would further entrench her in Canada's record books.

"This pandemic is so much bigger than sport," MacLennan wrote. "Sure, it's hard for athletes to have so much uncertainty . . . but then my mind goes to the health-care system and the health-care workers that are about to be hit hard.

"My brother-in-law and friends who are going to be on the front line. I think about the first responders, delivery workers and grocery store employees who will continue to serve us.

"I think about my 95 year old Grandma with pre-existing health conditions.

"We should all do everything in our power to support and protect them as much as possible, no matter what."

The International Olympic Committee's insistence, as recently as Tuesday, that the Tokyo Games will open as scheduled July 24 and that athletes should continue preparations "with full steam" has drawn some criticism domestically and internationally.

Six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, who is a medical student and member of the IOC's athletes commission, said on Twitter that "I think the IOC insisting this will move ahead, with such conviction, is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity.

"We don't know what's happening in the next 24 hours, let alone the next three months.''

The COC has given measured support to the IOC's continued green lighting of the Tokyo Games while stating "the unprecedented level of worry and anxiety in our communities" ranks sport "low in terms of these priorities."

"The anxiety that athletes are feeling about the pandemic is much like anyone else's, and although it includes hope for the Olympic Games, it is clear that hope for containment of this virus is first and foremost," the COC said in an open letter to athletes late Tuesday evening.

MacLennan called on Canadians to work as a team to halt the spread of COVID-19.

"It's an honour to be part of Team Canada truly . . . but let's put this in perspective," she said. "I am part of a true Team Canada that is 37 million strong. We all have a responsibility and can all have an impact.

"When the next Olympic Games take place, whether this summer or later, hopefully it will mean the world has pulled together and gotten through this and the Games will be, once again, be another incredible celebration of humanity."

— with files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press