Olympics: Athletes in limbo as COVID-19 scuppers Tokyo Games qualification events

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask walks in front of a wall decoration featuring Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

(Reuters) - Four months remain before the start of the rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo but the cancellation of qualifying events in various disciplines due to COVID-19 restrictions is once again disrupting the run-up to the Games.

With a deadline of June 29 set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to wrap up qualification, 25% of athlete quota places are yet to be filled, with another 14% to be decided based on rankings.

May's artistic gymnastics All-Around World Cup in Tokyo was cancelled this week following the cancellation of events in Stuttgart and Birmingham, forcing authorities to consider the 2019 world championships as a means of awarding entries to the Tokyo Games.

Meanwhile, April's Pan-American Canoe Sprint Olympic qualifiers in Curitiba, Brazil, were also cancelled with 14 spots to be determined by the International Canoe Federation, who are in discussions with the IOC over the next steps.

European boxing qualifiers, which began in London last year before the pandemic shut down sport, will now be held in Paris in June but the final world Olympic boxing qualifier was cancelled, to the dismay of many boxers.

The IOC -- which suspended the International Boxing Association in 2019 -- now has the job of allocating over 50 spots across several regions based on results since 2017.

Triathletes are also anxiously waiting for qualification events to restart in May, with the World Triathlon Executive Board set to take a final decision on March 18.

In recent weeks, the IOC has firmly reiterated its stance on being committed to ensuring the Tokyo Games go ahead, with the option of postponing the event a second time off the table.

However, many athletes who are still to punch their ticket to Tokyo will be waiting with bated breath until international federations make things clear.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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