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Olympics postponed: Hockey star Leah Wilkinson still focused on Tokyo glory

The Wales captain has won a record 171 caps for her country.

Great Britain hockey player Leah Wilkinson is determined to fulfil her Olympic dream after Tokyo 2020 was postponed during her sabbatical from teaching.

In January Wilkinson started an eight-month break from Ewell Castle School in Epsom, where she is a history teacher and Head of Year 10, to allow her to focus on preparation for Tokyo.

The postponement of this summer's Games due to the coronavirus pandemic is a difficult enough situation for full-time athletes with competitions, schedules and training plans to rearrange.

But for athletes like Wilkinson, who has to balance a career outside her chosen sport, it has led to all sort of complications which she admits she does not yet have the answer to.

"The reason I took my sabbatical is because I love my job, school and colleagues and it is somewhere I want to work after I finish playing hockey," Wilkinson told the PA news agency.

"The decision to postpone the Olympics has obviously just been made and I'm not in a position at the moment to speak to school, or even think about what's going to go on into next year.

"That's something I will have to chat about with my family and friends and also my school.

"The most important thing is I don't leave people in the lurch. I need to keep communication lines open and make sure I make the best decision for everyone in the next year."

Burton-born Wilkinson, who turns 34 in December, has had to wait a long time for her Olympic opportunity.

Wilkinson plays her national hockey for Wales, qualifying through her Swansea-born mother Anne, and joined the Welsh set-up as long ago as 2004.

Her 171 senior appearances makes Wilkinson the most capped international of all time in any Welsh team sport, but she did not make her Great Britain debut until late last year.

Suddenly the chance to be a part of the squad seeking to repeat the gold-medal success of Rio 2016 became a reality.

"School has been supportive the last few years with Wales," said Wilkinson, who captains the national team.

"I've been away a lot, I've been to three Commonwealth Games while being a teacher and a couple of them were when I was at my current school.

"I've also been to other tournaments as well. It's a lot on employees to give athletes time off.

"So the sabbatical was there as a way of me saying to my employers that I'm committed to the school and I will come back after the Olympics.

"I think that was security for both of us. Taking another sabbatical (next year) is definitely an option, but it has to work for both parties."

Wilkinson, who has now won nine caps for Great Britain, insists it was the right decision to postpone the Olympics until next year.

"We all love sport, but obviously it's not as important as people's health," she said.

"Hopefully this delay is just another bump in the road and I can still push to achieve those Olympic dreams.

"The last year has been amazing. I've played for Wales since 2004 and I never expected the opportunity to push for the Olympics for Great Britain.

"I've had many challenges in my career and I see this as another one.

"It's about staying fit and healthy and I will do everything I can to get selected."

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Gold medalist Britain's Max Whitlock celebrates on the podium on October 12, 2019
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Read more about Leah Wilkinson Hockey

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States14161141
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia10141034
Great BritainGreat Britain69924
Today's Olympic highlights header

Saturday's key events

· After silvers in both the men's and women's events, Team GB will be fancied to get on the podium again in the mixed relay (11.30pm-1am)

· Touted as Michael Phelps's successor, Caeleb Dressel already has two gold medals from these Games and he will be going for a third in the men's 50m butterfly final (2.30am)
· It is Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus III in the women's 800m freestyle final, with Ledecky entering as firm favourite (2.46am)
· Great Britain will be heavily fancied to add another gold medal to their swimming haul, having produced by far the fastest qualifying time for the mixed 4x100m medley relay final (3.43am)

· Dina Asher-Smith is one of three British women in the 100m semi-finals (3.01am-3.20am), and will hope to challenge for a medal in what is likely to be a star-studded final (1.50pm)
· The inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed relay event concludes with Great Britain one of the eight finalists going for gold (1.35pm)

· Team GB's dreams of an unlikely gold are still alive in the women's event as they face France in their semi-final (3.30am). The winners will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the gold medal match later in the day (10am)

· Gold medals are up for grabs in the windsurfer - RS:X finals. Emma Wilson participates for Team GB in the women's final (6.33am), while Tom Squires is in action in the men's (7.33am)

· Following his shock semi-final defeat, ending his hopes of a Golden Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic battles for bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta (7am)
· The women's singles event reaches its conclusion with the gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova

> Today's schedule in full
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