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The Tokyo Olympic Games may be widely unpopular in Japan, but they present a unique opportunity to inspire the world during a time of unprecedented anxiety and uncertainty brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
That's the opinion of Olympic Games swimming hopeful Brianna Throssell, who'll be looking to book her ticket to Tokyo when the Australian Swimming Trials get underway in Adelaide on Saturday.
For Throssell and Australia's other elite swimmers, their Olympic Games hopes rest on how they perform in the South Australian capital.
Five years of blood, sweat and tears - exacerbated by the myriad challenges and hardships that the coronavirus pandemic has presented - will be put to the test as the nation's best swimmers go toe-to-toe.
"All our preparation has been for this meet," Throssell explains.
It's the reason why many athletes such as the 25-year-old West Australian remain defiant in the face of calls - particularly within Japan - for the Games to be cancelled.
"The decision to leave home, leave a business, to leave my family, my friends, my partner... it was a huge decision but at the end of the day we've all waited five years for this so I wanted to put all my eggs in one basket," the YoPRO athlete said.
Countless polls in Japan have indicated that the majority of the country want the Games cancelled, despite the latest one from the Yomiuri Shimbun daily showing 50 percent of respondents wanted the Olympics to go ahead, as opposed to 48 percent in favour of cancellation.
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto just last week said she was "100%" certain the Games would go ahead but warned that organisers "must be prepared" for spectators to be banned in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak.
Throssell - who left loves ones to prepare for the Games after relocating from WA to Queensland in April because of Covid-19 - understands the concerns of the Japanese public about welcoming thousands of athletes and officials into the country during a a global pandemic.
However, the 25-year-old says she trusts the country's government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ensure the event runs safely and smoothly.
"It is sort of out of the athletes' control and right now I'm just focusing on my training, my preparation and any advice that's given to me from our governing bodies such as the AOC and IOC."
"I think these Games are going to be one to go down in history. I think it will actually be really, really special to be a part of.
"It's been a really difficult year and a half and I think the Games are there as an opportunity for athletes to inspire the world".
Japan yet to make a call on domestic fans
With international spectators already ruled out, the Japanese government is expected to make a decision on domestic spectators and possible crowd caps this month.
Throssell says while nothing compares to the thrill of competing in front of big crowds, not being given the chance to compete at all would be a devastating outcome for athletes.
"It is so exciting having a crowd but if they are there or aren't there at the end of the day we're there to do a job and to compete to the best of our ability," she insisted.
Parts of Japan - including Tokyo - remain under a state of emergency, although national infection rates are falling and vaccinations are on the rise after a sluggish start.
In spite of that, figures this week indicate that around only 3% of Japanese citizens - mainly health care workers - have been fully vaccinated.
"We'll follow protocol and do everything we can to minimise the risks. I think 90% of everyone attending, whether it be coaches, staff, volunteers, they'll be vaccinated to ensure a safer environment for everyone at the Games," Throssell said.
Sink or swim for Aussie hopefuls in Adelaide
The 25-year-old heads to the Australian Swimming Trials in Adelaide competing in the 100m and 200m for both the freestyle and butterfly, knowing that Olympic Games qualification will be extremely tough against a stacked field of domestic talent.
"The competition in Australia is so strong right now, particularly in the freestyle events," said Throssell, who was part of the women's 4x200m freestyle relay team that famously won gold in world record-breaking time at the 2019 swimming world titles in South Korea.
Throssell says her best chance of qualifying for Tokyo - outside of a relay spot - is in the 100m butterfly where Emma McKeon will start as the red-hot favourite.
"Emma McKeon is ranked fastest by a long way in the 100m butterfly... that race will be more about coming top-two and then coming in under the qualifying time and the qualifying time is very, very fast so I will almost have to swim a personal best," Throssell admits.
The Perth-born swimmer will be up against the likes of Queensland teen sensation Elizabeth Dekkers in the 200m butterfly, as well as superstars Cate Campbell, McKeon and Ariarne Titmus in the freestyle events.
Throssell is hoping to qualify for her second successive Olympics after making her debut at Rio 2016, where she made it all the way to the final of the 200m butterfly.
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