Michael McKillop has won gold medals at three Paralympic Games. He fears he will not get a chance to be successful at a fourth Games in Tokyo next year.
McKillop is the first elite athlete to raise the prospect of Tokyo 2021 not happening even after this year's Games were postponed by 12 months.
"It's quite scary when you really think about it," he said.
"The Olympics and Paralympics are about athletes coming together from every country in the world.
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"Is every country in the world going to have Covid-19 under control, with everybody tested, by July, August and September of next year?"
Put in such stark terms, the 30-year-old McKillop is making a real point. Paralympians often have underlying health conditions – the Ballymena man has Cerebral Palsy.
“It’s down the right side of my body, including my lung; will it be safe for me to compete next year? With a vaccine, yes, will there be a tried-and-trusted vaccine by then?”
McKillop doesn’t answer that question – nobody can accurately. But the inference is there, the 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games are by no means certain to go ahead next year.
If they don’t, he believes world sport will move on and begin planning for Paris in 2024. “I can’t see them trying again in 2022, it would completely mess up the annual calendar of so many sports,” he added in a conference call for his sponsors Allianz yesterday.
Should that happen, McKillop will not be in Paris. “At 30, it’s time for me to stop after Tokyo. I’m married and we’re thinking about starting a family. It will be time for me to get a proper job and forget about disappearing from home for six weeks at a time to go to warm-weather training camps.”
If the Antrim man doesn’t get to compete at a fourth Paralympics, he will leave the sport he has distinguished since 2008 with a bit of a sour taste, having been beaten in last year’s World Championships in Dubai.
“I could take you through my race last year and point out every mistake I made, I know I made them. But I was coming back off an injury-hit 2018 and things didn’t go smoothly last year.
“I was determined to win this year’s Paralympic gold and then finish up by taking back the World Championship gold in Kobe, also in Japan, next year. Now it is going to be the Paralympic gold or nothing.”