Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Yousif Mirza stays focused on Tokyo Olympics as UAE's top cyclist trains at home

Mirza believes the decision to delay the Olympics is the right one and he would continue to work hard to qualify for next year’s global event

Yousif Mirza has said his target of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics “hasn’t changed” following the decision to postpone the Games until next year, as the UAE’s top professional cyclist keeps fit by riding his bike indoors.

The unprecedented move to delay Tokyo 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic was made last week, with local organisers now meeting to discuss the logistics of hosting the rearranged Games.

Mirza, who represented the UAE in the road race at Rio 2016, believes the decision to delay the Olympics is the right one and he would continue to work hard to qualify for next year’s global event.

“Tokyo 2020 was such a huge goal of mine, and has been for a number of years, but this target hasn’t changed, it just means that the dates have been pushed back,” said Mirza, who has been the UAE National Road Race champion every year since 2013.

“It’s something that has obviously disappointed me in the short term but it’s a decision I agree with.

“There is no better feeling than representing your country at the Olympic Games and I am very proud to say that I competed at Rio in 2016.

“The whole experience was amazing. The Olympics is supposed to be a celebration of four years of hard work and training and a chance to show everyone your talents and inspire others. If the Olympics had gone ahead this summer, I don’t think it would’ve been fair or appropriate.”

With much of the world adhering to social distancing and self-isolation measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, professional athletes have adopted at-home training programmes to stay in shape. Mirza is no different.

“I am still training hard while in isolation on the bike indoors, but nothing matches being on the track and doing the real thing,” he said. "It’s very important, as professional sportsmen, that we stay active and don’t let our fitness levels drop during this time.

“Riding the bike indoors and with double sessions most days, is a great way to break up your day, help time go quicker and stay fit and healthy.”

As a professional cyclist with UCI World Tour team UAE Team Emirates, Mirza is used to spending much of his time on the road competing in races around the world, and the 31-year-old Emirati is taking advantage of the additional time at home to spend it with his family.

“During this lockdown and isolation period, one thing I am grateful for is that I am getting more time to spend with my family – something I wouldn’t have been able to do if the season was going ahead as normal,” he said.

“The life of a pro cyclist means travelling the world, racing in amazing places and being looked after by team staff, but you can be away from your family for months at a time so I’m trying to make the most of this time by ourselves.”

The coronavirus pandemic has, according to recent statistics, recorded more than 735,000 total global cases and more than 34,000 deaths, while more than 156,000 people have recovered. In the UAE, total cases stand at 570 after authorities confirmed 102 new cases on Sunday.

“It’s incredibly important that all UAE residents stay positive and listen to the sound advice being given by the UAE government,” Mirza said. “I encourage everyone to #StayHome and stay safe.”

Updated: March 30, 2020 04:03 PM

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