By Andrew Downie

(Reuters) – Skateboarders have waited a long time for their first appearance in the Olympics but rather than be despondent over the one-year delay announced on Tuesday, one top-ranked contender said it would give the sport more time to win over fans.

“I think everyone is really excited that skateboarding was going to be in the Olympics for the first time,” Brazilian Leticia Bufoni told Reuters. “But everything happens for a reason. I think they made a great decision to move to next year.”

“The most important thing is the health of everyone, not just the athletes, but everyone.

“We are not going to have a lot of contests after the Olympics, we are not going to get the attention that we are getting now. So I think it is going to be good to get another year of attention until we get to the Olympics.

“Today with this news, my heart hurts a little bit because I really wanted to go to Tokyo,” said the world’s No. 4 ranked athlete in the women’s street event, one of two skateboarding disciplines (park and street) that will debut in Tokyo.

“But at the same time… I can breathe for a little bit, I can chill and work on new tricks and not worry so much about competition, about making the team. So I think now we are going to reset and start over again.

“In the back of my head it is just another year of training, it is another year of competing and getting used to competitions more and it is another year to get in our heads that we are going to be in the Olympics,” Bufoni, who has missed much of the last six months through injury, added.

Skateboarding is one of three disciplines that will make their debuts in Japan, along with surfing and sport climbing.

Brazil is among the countries harbouring high medal hopes, with seven Brazilian women and four men in the respective top 10s for the park and street events.

A rival of Bufoni’s in the street event agreed that Tuesday’s IOC decision was the right one and said skateboarders knew their time would come.

“Right now we need to think collectively, we need to take this (coronavirus) seriously, this isn’t a joke,” said world No. 1 Pamela Rosa. “It won’t be too hard to deal with this. We have the strength to keep going.”

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris)