ANTWERP, Belgium (Reuters) – Belgium’s Thomas Pieters reckons he is one of just a handful of sportspeople who did a merry jig when this year’s Olympic Games were postponed.
“I was pretty ecstatic when it got cancelled,” he conceded in an interview with Reuters after girlfriend Stephanie fell pregnant and with the baby due later this month — right when the Tokyo Games were due to start.
After finishing an agonising fourth at the Games in Rio de Janeiro four years ago, even after a final round 65, Pieters had, at first, been desperately keen to try for a medal again.
“It’s still one of the biggest disappointments in my career so far, that fourth place,” he recalled.
“It still hurts when I think about. Just being able to win a medal would have been something – I didn’t care what colour. It puts you in your country’s history books.”
But then came news of the pregnancy.
“It was a terrible coincidence for the baby to come during the Olympics,” he said, before smiling: “Now it’s all good.”
The Tokyo Games were postponed for a year amid the COVID-19 crisis, which has given the 28-year-old Pieters a chance for a little down time after a hectic lifestyle on the professional circuit.
“It was actually an easy switch. It’s nice to be home. I haven’t been home this long since I was… I don’t know… about 12 or 13-years-old,” Pieters said.
“It’s been lovely especially with my girlfriend being pregnant, being at home with her, supporting her.”
But during the lockdown Pieters could continue to practice.
“I was the only golfer in Belgium allowed onto the golf course during lockdown, so when everyone was inside for two months I could always go to the course and catch a breath of air and see some green, because I live in an apartment,” he said.
Since the easing of the lockdown, he is playing 18 holes daily, waiting to get back on the circuit.
“But that depends on when the baby comes. If it’s a bit early then hopefully I can get to the PGA Championship (in San Francisco in August) but if not then I’ll be looking to play one or two in England and Wales in August.
“I’d love to be back playing tournaments but you do realise there is other stuff,” he added.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)